Awesome Attire, Marvelous Messages

Awesome Attire, Marvelous Messages


Parents and spectators attending youth sports games at the National Trail Parks and Recreation District in Springfield, Ohio are receiving constant reminders about behaving appropriately through an exciting new initiative.

The messages are creative and colorful.

They’re positive and powerful.

And the impact has been remarkable, earning the department an Excellence in Youth Sports Award.

The Excellence in Youth Sports Award is given for a specific initiative, process, project, campaign, element or component of a program that goes above and beyond. This invitation-only award recognizes the innovative ways organizations that have earned the Better Sports for Kids Quality Program Provider designation are making their programs stand out and truly become excellent.

And excellent is a fitting word to describe the youth sports programs at National Trail.

Officials no longer wear the traditional black and white striped referee shirts but instead colorful t-shirts with positive messaging emblazoned on the backs of their shirts.

These clear and concise messages, such as THE GAME BELONGS TO THE KIDS. YOU ARE A GUEST, are wonderful reminders for coaches, parents, and spectators to keep their emotions in check all game long.

“Throughout the season we had had our basketball referees dressed in black pants and the traditional black and white striped shirt and we had people telling us how nice they looked and how professional they looked,” explains Miste Adams, recreation superintendent at National Trail and a Certified Youth Sports Administrator (CYSA). “At our season-ending tournament for fifth and sixth graders I was escorting some parents out of the gym who had been yelling at our refs, because we don’t put up with that, while explaining to them that these were high school kids. One of the parents made the comment that they didn’t realize they weren’t professionals, so that’s where it dawned on me and the two ideas came together to put our officials into regular National Trail staff shirts. But why waste the opportunity of just putting “STAFF” on the back of those shirts when we could put some of those signs we’ve all seen at facilities and have our officials as walking billboards on how to behave and just reminding parents that the game is about the kids.”

The officials, many of whom are high school players performing volunteer service and doing their best making calls involving 4th and 5th graders, love the shirts. They also love the impact they’ve had in cutting down the critical comments hurled at them from the stands.

And Adams and her staff love how changing the wardrobe of their young officials has positively impacted their programs.

“It’s been very well received,” she says. “Our officials love it, and the parents of the officials love it, too.”

Plus, parents have even been heard during games reading the shirts aloud whenever someone starts to raise their voice about a call.

The shirts and the positive messaging have been so popular and effective that volunteer coaches are now asking for similar shirts, too!

Moving forward, these simple reminders of expected behaviors will be worn by officials and referees for all their internal program offerings.

Innovative and game-changing, this terrific initiative is keeping the focus on the kids and helping deliver high-quality experiences that will be savored for a lifetime.

Excellence Award National Trail Officials Parents Spectator Behavior

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