17th annual Youth Sports Congress another big success

17th annual Youth Sports Congress another big success


Learning, laughter and networking filled the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center in New Orleans last week, as another enormously successful Youth Sports Congress took place.

The 17th annual Congress, the signature event of the National Alliance for Youth Sports that is conducted in conjunction with the Athletic Business Show, attracted more than 250 recreation professionals from across the country and on U.S. military bases worldwide. Attendees were treated to four days of high-quality sessions led by leading experts in their respective fields.

Plus, there was the highly anticipated Youth Sports in America: A National Treasure session that featured Heisman Trophy winner Herschel Walker, Co-Chair of the President’s Council on Sports, Fitness & Nutrition; Holli Richmond, Executive Director of the President’s Council on Sports, Fitness & Nutrition; Clay Walker, executive director of the National Fitness Foundation; and Mary Owen, life trustee at the Ralph C. Wilson Jr. Foundation.

“If it wasn’t for youth sports there wouldn’t be a Herschel Walker, so I’m excited about serving on the Council because I want to do something,” Walker said. “I want to get kids active again.”

A focal point of the Council is its national strategy to expand youth participation in sports. “It’s so important from a public health perspective as youth participation in sports relates to instilling healthy habits and lowering rates of obesity and obesity-related illnesses,” Richmond said. “There are also benefits that pertain to a higher probability for overall academic, economic and social development and success.”  

The Congress kicked off with Andrew Ferenchak from Joint Base Charleston in South Carolina receiving the prestigious NAYS Volunteer Coach of the Year award; and Steve Berke receiving the NAYS Parent of the Year award for his efforts through the Evendale (Ohio) Recreation Department.

“For me it’s being able to establish the love of the game,” said Ferenchak, who coaches a variety of sports. “Being able to see them and see the joy and fun they have and to keep them coming back every year is the biggest thing.”

Before seasons get under way Ferenchak meets with his players, and three key points are covered. “The first thing is teamwork, it’s always teamwork,” Ferenchak said. “The second thing is fun – we are always looking to have fun. And the third is respect – for our teammates, coaches, referees and opponents.”

Berke has been a fixture in the Evendale community, where he has been on the swim team board for nearly 30 years and a long-time volunteer heat announcer who is well-known for encouraging and supporting swimmers of all teams. “It’s really rewarding to see everyone have a great summer and build on their swimming skills while having fun,” he said.

Three organizations providing high-quality and diverse programming for children were also honored during the session with the Excellence in Youth Sports Award: The City of Arlington (Texas) Parks and Recreation Department; USAG Alaska Youth Sports and Fitness; and the City of Tamarac (Fla.) Parks and Recreation Department.  


An impressive array of speakers conducted sessions throughout the Congress. Judson Laipply delivered an inspiring keynote address and did a second session on increasing efficiency without lowering effectiveness.

Donna Mack, owner of the Disability Diplomat, shared her insights on how to help youth sports administrators break down barriers and build inclusion services into their internal youth sports programs; and a session entitled “What Happens When Abuse Happens in Youth Sports” was presented by Michelle Peterson, a child abuse prevention expert. She spoke about the importance of being proactive and shared procedures for reporting, investigating and recognizing offenders.

Sheryl Bindelglass, CEO of Sheryl Golf, delivered an entertaining session on how to draw more participants and volunteers into youth sports programs; and Daniel Caldwell, president of Silbo, and Ian Goldberg, CEO of iSport360, presented a fascinating session entitled “Common Struggles in Youth Sports: Evaluating Participants and Securing Officials.”

“It truly is inspiring to see all the incredible work being done worldwide to help make youth sports the best they can be for children,” said John Engh, executive director of NAYS. “I am continually impressed and amazed, and it is so rewarding to have all these incredible individuals gather each year who are interested in gaining more knowledge and information to take their programs to even higher levels.”

Make your plans now to join us at next year’s Youth Sports Congress, which will take place on Nov. 13-16 in Orlando, Fla.

Youth Sports Congress Herschel Walker

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