18th annual Youth Sports Congress another big success

18th annual Youth Sports Congress another big success


Learning, networking and good times filled the Orange County Convention Center in Orlando last week, as another enormously successful Youth Sports Congress took place.

The 18th annual Congress, the signature event of the National Alliance for Youth Sports that is conducted in conjunction with the Athletic Business Show, attracted more than 250 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.

“I was blown away by the incredible programing,” said Gary Diehl, the Parks and Athletics Manager for The City of Broadview Heights in Ohio and a Certified Youth Sports Administrator (CYSA). “Each and every speaker was outstanding, providing practical, real world ideas and relevant discussions. I took home about 15 pages of notes and numerous ideas that I am planning on implementing in our own programs. I can’t wait to attend next year’s Congress.”

The event kicked off with a keynote address by Pat LaFontaine, vice president of hockey development for the National Hockey League and an NHL Hall of Fame inductee.

“There’s such a massive value in playing sports and it’s in the character development and the life skills that we learn,” says LaFontaine, who played 15 seasons in the NHL. “I don’t think you can have a meaningful, successful and well-rounded life if you don’t have those values and skills to apply.”

The evening also featured recognizing Randall Reels, the NAYS Volunteer Coach of the Year from San Diego Metro – Navy SW Region (Calif.); and Junko Vanoverberghe, the NAYS Parent of the Year from JEB Little Creek Fort Story Youth Program in Virginia.

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:

City of Goodyear (Arizona)

Liberty Parks and Recreation (Missouri)

Mecklenburg County Park and Recreation (North Carolina)

USAG Fort Huachuca Youth Sports and Fitness (Arizona)

“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, and it is so rewarding to have all these incredible individuals gather each year who are interested in gaining more knowledge and information to take their programs to even higher levels.”


A panel session entitled Youth Sports Development: What Works! kicked off the first full day of sessions. Joining LaFontaine on the panel were Scott Hallenbeck, executive director of USA Football; Craig Morris, the CEO of USTA Community Tennis; and Chris Moore, CEO of US Youth Soccer. The session was moderated by Clay Walker, executive director of the National Fitness Foundation.

The day also featured Tami Matheny, owner of Refuse2LoseCoaching and author of The Confident Athlete and The Confidence Journal, delivering a session focused on building one’s confidence and helping instill it in others; legendary football coach Lou Holtz delivered a riveting keynote for Athletic Business that had the audience hanging on his every word; and to close out the day Dr. Daniel Wann, a professor of psychology at Murray State University, and Dr. Julie Partridge, a professor of sport and exercise psychology at Southern Illinois University, spoke about building mental skills.

The second full day included a session examining the impact technology has on learning and development that was presented by John Kriger, adjunct faculty at the Rutgers Center for Alcohol Studies, and School of Social Work Office of Continuing Education. He’s also the author of Turned On & Tuned Out, A Guide to Understanding and Managing Tech Dependence.

Steven Smith, co-founder and president of Guardian Defense, presented a session on planning and responding when terror strikes; and Katie Scott, Senior Special Projects Coordinator for the National Athletic Trainers Association, spoke on the best practices for handling emergency situations in youth sports.

The day also featured another outstanding Athletic Business keynote from Bonnie St. John, a Paralympic skiing medalist, Rhodes Scholar, Fortune 500 Business Consultant and best-selling author. Her session, Normal is Overrated – Aim Higher!, encouraged audiences to strive for extraordinary results.

The Congress wrapped up with an interactive roundtable on youth sports, exploring the benchmark standards that programs should be focused on.

Make your plans now to join us at next year’s Youth Sports Congress, which will take place on Nov. 3-6 in Baltimore, Maryland.

Youth Sports Congress

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