20th annual Youth Sports Congress another big success

20th annual Youth Sports Congress another big success


Pictured above (from left) are NAYS Executive Director John Engh; Martin McNair, founder of The Jordan McNair Foundation; and Dr. Robert Huggins, President of Research and Athlete Performance and Safety at the Korey Stringer Institute.

Learning, networking and good times filled the Henry B. Gonzalez Convention Center in San Antonio, Texas last week, as another enormously successful Youth Sports Congress took place.

The 20th annual Congress, the signature event of the National Alliance for Youth Sports that is conducted in conjunction with the Athletic Business Show, attracted 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.


The event kicked off with a keynote address by Martin McNair, founder of the Jordan McNair Foundation. He shared details of losing his son Jordan to complications from a heat-related injury in 2018. Jordan, a 19-year-old offensive lineman at the University of Maryland, collapsed while running sprints during an organized offseason team workout.

Ever since that tragic afternoon, Martin has worked tirelessly to promote awareness, education, and the prevention of heat-related injuries, and he is the author of Can My Child Play? The Questions We Should've Asked.

“You can either take your grief down this rabbit hole of despair or turn your pain into passion,” McNair told the audience. “The more educated we all are the safer our student athletes will be.”

The evening also featured recognizing Chad Rollins, the NAYS Volunteer Coach of the Year from Jupiter, Fla., and Lisa Truax, the NAYS Parent of the Year from Andersen Air Force Base in Guam.

Four outstanding organizations who provide high-quality and diverse programming for children were also honored with the prestigious Excellence in Youth Sports Award. This year’s recipients were:

Yokosuka Naval Fleet Activities in Japan

City of Torrance Recreation Services in California

Fort Hood CYS Youth Sports and Fitness in Texas

USAG Rheinland-Pfalz Baumholder Youth Sports and Fitness in Germany

“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 so impressed how these dedicated recreation professionals navigated the challenges of the pandemic and found ways to offer innovative and safe programming that kept youth and teens engaged and active.”

The evening also featured a look back at a fabulous 40 years as NAYS celebrated its 40th anniversary as one of the leading advocates for positive and safe sports for kids.

“We’re proud of the work we have done,” Engh said. “And we value and appreciate all of the amazing organizations and incredible people – both professionals and volunteers – who are so dedicated to youth sports in their community.”


The first full day of sessions began with Dr. Robert Huggins, President of Research & Athlete Performance and Safety at the Korey Stringer Institute, delivering a session on Emergency Health and Safety Best Practice Recommendations for Youth Sports Leagues.

The day also featured Dr. Michelle Tollefson, Executive Board member of the American College of Lifestyle Medicine, presenting a session on Encouraging Healthy Youth Behaviors through a Lifestyle and Medicine Approach. Joining her was her daughter Kaitlyn Tollefson, co-author of the Lifestyle Medicine Teen Handbook and a teen leader within the Lifestyle Medicine movement.

Closing out the day on a high note was Chris Stevenson, Founder of Be Military Fit Los Angeles, presenting Leadership Lessons I Learned by Saving the Universe.

Day Two got rolling with a session on The Leadership Continuum: The Importance of Intergenerational Thinking and Action, which was presented by Dr. Brian Nakamura, Assistant Professor of Practice for the Bush School of Government and Public Service at Texas A&M University.

A powerful session on Championing an Inclusive Model in Sports followed, led by Krista Rappoccio, Senior Director of Move United; and Tonya Fontenot, Co-Founder & Executive Director of Kinetic Kids.

The day featured another outstanding Athletic Business keynote from Molly Fletcher, CEO, author and former sports agent, who encouraged the audience to strive for extraordinary results with her Unleash Your Potential presentation.

Later in the day, after attendees spent the afternoon at the AB Show Expo, a session on Preventing Abuse in Youth Sports was led by Dr. Andy Driska, an Associate Professor in the Department of Kinesiology at Michigan State University and Dr. Jeff MacCharles, an assistant Professor in the Department of Kinesiology at Michigan State University.

The Congress wrapped up with an interactive roundtable on youth sports, exploring current youth sports issues.

Make your plans now to see these sessions, and more, at our upcoming Virtual Youth Sports Congress on Nov. 16-18.

Youth Sports Congress Education Leadership Experts Health Safety Young Athletes

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