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Article Sports

By GREG BACH

Mark Dollard, DPM, has busy podiatric medical practices in the Northern Virginia cities of Falls Church and Sterling. He is also the scientific cochair of the APMA’s Annual Scientific Meeting, set for Washington, DC, August 7-10, 2003.

Despite the busy schedule, Dr. Dollard somehow finds time to volunteer his services to help ensure positive sports experiences for the youngsters in his community.

Dr. Dollard is one of a growing number of professionals around the country who are taking an active interest in what’s going on at ballparks, gyms, and rinks in their communities and who are stepping forward to volunteer their services through the National Youth Sports Coaches Association (NYSCA).

The organization is part of a concerted effort to provide volunteer coaches—typically, moms and dads—with training and information on the best approach to coaching kids in order to help them learn and develop skills and have fun in the process.

Now Dr. Dollard has set his sights on recruiting podiatrists in other cities to fill these important roles as NYSCA clinicians who oversee the coaching clinics. The clinics are conducted by doctors, lawyers, parks and recreation professionals, construction workers, housewives—you name it—in more than 2,500 towns and cities nationwide.

At this year’s APMA Annual Scientific Meeting in Washington, DC, a special session will be devoted to registering podiatrists as NYSCA clinicians. Michael Pfahl, vice president of education for the nonprofit National Alliance for Youth Sports, will conduct the free session on Thursday, August 7, starting at 5:15 pm. The session will provide the training necessary to qualify the attendees to return to their communities and offer the NYSCA program to coaches involved in youth sports.

“Youth sports play an integral role in the lives of children and, conducted in the appropriate fashion, can give them many wonderful memories,” said Dr. Dollard. “By becoming NYSCA clinicians, not only do podiatrists have the opportunity to become more involved in their communities, but they can take great pride in knowing that they are affecting countless children in the process.”

Through NYSCA, a National Alliance for Youth Sports program that arrived on the scene in 1981, more than 1.8 million volunteer coaches have been trained and certified.

The NYSCA certification program focuses on making volunteer coaches keenly aware of their responsibility to provide for the psychological, emotional, and physical needs of the children on their team, so the program sensitizes coaches to their responsibilities in working with children and holds them accountable to a “Coaches’ Code of Ethics.”

Volunteer coaches who are interested in becoming members of NYSCA start by taking a three-hour training course called a clinic. Clinics are offered at specific times by local organizations and are overseen by clinicians.

Volunteer coaches who lack the appropriate training needed to work successfully with a group of children in an organized sports setting can—despite the best intentions—cause tremendous physical or emotional harm to the children without even realizing it. It’s one of the biggest reasons that an alarming 70 percent of children quit engaging in sports before their 13th birthday.

Parents wouldn’t send their children to a school with untrained teachers, so there is no logical reason they should turn them loose after school to an untrained volunteer coach who has the potential to unintentionally cause the children emotional and physical harm.

During an NYSCA clinic, coaches watch a general training video that covers important topics such as the following:

  • positive coaching philosophies for youth sports;
  • how to conduct fun, effective practices;
  • sport-specific fundamentals;
  • prevention and treatment of injuries;
  • the importance of role modeling for children;
  • drug, tobacco, and alcohol prevention;
  • coaches’ code of ethics;
  • national standards for youth sports;
  • child abuse prevention in youth sports;
  • nutrition, safety, and first aid.

They also watch a videotape that outlines practice tips and drills they can utilize for the particular sport they are coaching.

To complete the program, coaches are required to pass a written exam on the material presented and to sign the code of ethics, pledging to adhere to a certain standard of behavior. The “Coaches’ Code of Ethics” stresses such points as (1) placing the emotional and physical well-being of players ahead of any personal desire to win, (2) treating each player as an individual, and (3) remembering that the game is for children and not adults.

Coaches who complete the initial clinic are eligible to become continuing members simply by renewing their membership each year. All coaches receive a continuing education publication, the Youth Sports Journal, published quarterly. Each edition of the Journal is full of drills, tips, and articles for coaches to help them keep sports safe and fun. Other benefits include a $1,000,000 excess liability insurance policy, a publication titled Introduction to Coaching Youth Sports, an NYSCA membership card, and discounts on selected hotels, car rentals, and theme parks.

Clearly, certifying today’s volunteer coaches before they take the field, court, or rink with a group of youngsters is a big step in the right direction toward improving organized sports.

And that’s good news for everyone.

Contact the National Alliance for Youth Sports at (800) 729-2057, or visit http://www.nays.org.