15th annual Youth Sports Congress another big success

15th annual Youth Sports Congress another big success


More than 250 recreation professionals from across the country – and on U.S. military bases worldwide – attended the 15th annual Youth Sports Congress in Orlando, Fla., this past week.

The four-day Congress, the signature event of the National Alliance for Youth Sports (NAYS), featured a variety of sessions presented by leading experts addressing key issues in youth sports today.  

Among those who presented were John Register, a two-time U.S. Paralympian; Craig Rot, youth development director for USA Team Handball; Megan Weagley, multisport education manager for USA Triathlon; Todd Galati, senior director of Science and Research for the American Council on Exercise; Dr. Brian Greenwood, associate professor at California Polytechnic State University; and Lacy Bienkowski, recreation programmer for the City of Mesa.

Along with the fascinating sessions that tackled topics like hurdling adversity, adding variety to youth sports programming and exploring generational issues in youth sports, delegates also took advantage of the opportunity to network with other attendees and share valuable information and insight, as well as visit the always impressive Athletic Business Exhibit Hall featuring the industry’s most comprehensive trade show.

“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 by what recreation staffs are doing to impact young lives through sports and to be able to have all these incredible individuals gather each year for our Congress is really special.”


One of the highlights of the Congress every year is the NAYS Awards session, an inspiring get-together in which the national Coach and Parent of the Year are honored.

This year’s Coach of the Year is Scott Denson, who had a distinguished 26-year career in the U.S. Army where he valiantly deployed twice in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom. The video honoring him can be viewed HERE.

“I use what I learned in the military when I interact with the kids,” says Denson, who earned two Bronze Star Medals for his honorable service and outstanding leadership on the battlefield.   “I don’t have any soldiers to lead anymore but I have all these kids that I can impact, and that’s what I try to do. I just try and encourage all the kids that I coach.”

A volunteer coach at Andrews Air Force Base, Denson coaches softball, T-ball, basketball and soccer.

“We’re a country that is battling childhood obesity so it’s important that we get kids involved in sports and things of that nature,” Denson says. “And it’s important that they are resilient, and that they are able to be good sports when they win and also be good sports when they lose.”

The Parent of the Year is Gregory Prayer, who has provided more than 4,100 hours of volunteer service to the youth sports programs at the Camp LeJeune-New River Community in North Carolina.

“I think it’s very important for kids to have someone who is there for them, to help them with sports, and help teach them life lessons,” says Prayer, who served his country for nearly 27 years in the United States Marine Corps.

The video honoring him can be viewed HERE.


The prestigious Excellence in Youth Sports Awards, created by Athletic Business magazine and NAYS to honor organizations that deliver the highest quality youth sports programs, were also presented during the awards session to these five incredibly deserving organizations:

County of Los Angeles Department of Parks and Recreation – East Agency

Detroit Parks and Recreation Department

Naval Station Rota Spain Youth Sports and Fitness Program

Town of Cary (N.C.) Parks, Recreation & Cultural Resources 

United States Army Garrison Stuttgart Youth Sports & Fitness 

The Youth Sports Congress is annually held in conjunction with the Athletic Business Show.

Please be sure to join us at next year’s event, which will take place Nov. 8-11 at the Orange County Convention Center in Orlando.

Youth Sports Congress

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