Glynn County (Ga.) focuses on safety to provide excellent youth programming


For Glynn County (Ga.) Recreation and Parks, being selected as an Excellence in Youth Sports Award recipient doesn’t just acknowledge the hard work that is required to produce a quality youth sports program – it recognizes the effort the whole community contributes to creating positive sports experiences for the children.
“The leadership skills and dedication of our staff to the kids are second to none. This, along with the cooperation of the parents, as well as the volunteer coaches and officials, is the real reason why Glynn County has been recognized as one of this year’s winners,” said Steve Mellinger, program manager of the Glynn County Recreation and Parks department. “They understand the importance of abiding by our rules, philosophy and standards so that the needs of the children participating in our sports program come first.”
(Pictured above, from left to right) Wesley Davis, director of Glynn County Recreation and Steve Mellinger (at right), program manager, received a 2010 Excellence in Youth Sports Award from Mike Ditka on behalf of their department’s outstanding youth sports programming.
Maintaining the safety of the children participating in their programs, as well as that of the volunteer coaches, parents and other spectators, is one of Glynn County’s main focuses, and they have found that with the help of technology they are able to do so.
For example, during certain times of the year in South Georgia, where Glynn County is located, thunderstorms occur almost every afternoon. As a result, Mellinger and his staff must weigh decisions, such as whether the storm is close enough to suspend play, or if it’s safe to return the kids to the field. However, their newly installed lightning detection system now measures static buildup and eliminates any guesswork.  
“I want to know before the lightning strikes so there’s enough time to get the kids off the playing field and into a safer area, and our lightning detection system allows us to do that,” Mellinger said. The lightning detection system sets off an audible and visual alarm signal well before the level of static buildup reaches the point required to form lightning. “It also sounds another type of alarm when the static build up has decreased to a safe level for the game to resume,” he explained.   
Another role that technology plays for Glynn County is its expansion of video cameras. By installing video cameras throughout their park, Glynn County will offer safer experiences for all who utilize the recreation and parks department’s services, including the more than 3,100 children that participate in their youth sports program. 
For instance, the main recreation complex encompasses 153 acres, including four softball fields, four baseball fields, five full-size football/soccer fields, as well as other features, like picnic pavilions and a skate park. “Our proposed video cameras will cover this entire park, including the entrances that will record all vehicles and pedestrians coming in and out. Each camera can be viewed from our office via our computer, so we can see what’s going on from miles away,” Mellinger explained.
Volunteer coach training is also an important component to providing safety within the youth sports program. Glynn County requires that each coach is certified through the National Youth Sports Coaches Association (NYSCA), which provides a thorough education on topics such as psychology of coaching youth sports, communications, child abuse, injury prevention, nutrition and hydration, as well as skills and drills specifically applicable to the sport that the coach is teaching. Additionally, each volunteer coach must agree to let Glynn County conduct a background check on them.  
Also, Glynn County uses an online Coach Rating System created by NAYS, to collect and analyze evaluations of volunteer coaches from parents. “It has taken some coaches by surprise that they have to hear the good and the bad, but it gives them an opportunity to grow as a coach – just like they expect their players to grow from their mistakes or sub-par performances,” said Mellinger. 
Using the Coach Rating System, parents can anonymously evaluate their children’s coaches. “The parents love the confidentiality that the rating system allows,” Mellinger said. “We find that the ratings are more honest because of it.” 
Glynn County has also added overhead safety netting to their baseball and softball complex. Mellinger reports that the new netting has turned out nice, and that there isn’t a need to give patrons a “heads up” call now if a ball goes foul.
Providing safety is the biggest concern to Glynn County. “We expect all of our volunteer coaches, officials and parents to abide by our rules and standards in order to continue being part of our youth sports program,” said Mellinger.
Through the use of technology and training, Mellinger and his staff can ensure safe and positive experiences in youth sports where children can learn both sports and life lessons.
After all, said Mellinger, “That’s the real reason we’re out there.”

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