National Standards for Youth Sports

Today I came across a youth recreational basketball league that required parents to read the National Standards for Youth Sports as part of signing their child up for the league.  I was a little embarrassed with myself that I was not familiar with these national standards.  What kind of youth recreational sports enthusiast am I, right?

So, I did what we all do when we are trying to find information – I Google’d it.  Turns out I am familiar with the organization that put the standards together – the National Association for Youth Sports (NAYS).  NAYS has been around since 1981 and espouses to be “America’s leading advocate for positive and safe sports for children“.  I have followed them on Twitter (@NAYS_edu) for a while and appreciate their content and efforts to provide positive youth recreational sports experiences.

After reviewing the standards, I have the following analysis/commentary:  the standards provide welcome guidance for adults – and the children themselves – for ensuring a positive experience; and are very much in line with my Hustle & Attitude philosophy.  I think leagues and individuals that adhere to these standards would be well on their way to giving children a fun, safe, and positive sports experience. My specific thoughts on the standards include:

  • The age-specific recommendations in Standard #1 seem appropriate; particularly those that recognize different development levels based on age
  • I completely agree with the recommendation for training of adults involved in youth recreational sports; I believe that coaches are the most in need of training – and I will be giving my first Hustle & Attitude coaching clinic in December
  • One of the most important things our children can learn from their youth recreational sports experiences is good sportsmanship – the essence of Standard #6
  • My wife pointed out that the recommendations concerning first-aid certification and CPR qualified personnel being present at all times in Standard #7 are really good; but what responsibility does the league have to provide these resources?

The ‘Equal Play Opportunity’ standard is perhaps my favorite.  As I mention in the ‘About’ page, providing equal opportunities for all children to participate in sports is one of the things I am most passionate about.  To me, non-discrimination goes without saying, but the implementation items #2, #4, and #5 are the ones that most speak to me.  I will have more to say later about how wrong it is that finances would keep a child from playing sports – money should not be an impediment.  A key tenet of the Hustle & Attitude philosophy is to provide equal playing time for all participants.  And, I have had the privilege of coaching children who were not necessarily diagnosed with a disability, but were developmentally challenged.  I call it a privilege because the relationships have been some of the most rewarding in my youth recreational sports coaching career (I believe the feeling is mutual for the children, too).

Overall, I think the National Standards for Youth Sports are a valuable tool in the effort to continue to provide positive youth recreational sports experiences.  My Hustle & Attitude philosophy and the practical application is in line with these standards and amplifies many of them.

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