The Teton County/Jackson Parks and Recreation Department staff in Wyoming is always on the lookout for fun and exciting programs they can offer children to spark interest in healthy athletic activities.
And the Start Smart Sports Development Program it conducted for the first time this past winter turned out to be a big winner with the community.
“This program was new to our community and it provided a new age group program for us,” said Meghan Spaulding, program manager for the Teton County/Jackson Parks and Recreation Department. “Our department wanted to provide a program for 3- to 5-year-olds.”
The department was one of 10 nationwide to receive a $1,000 grant from ESPN Inc. to conduct the Start Smart program at no cost. Start Smart is a program of the National Alliance for Youth Sports.
“This grant helped us provide a quality program for our residents during the cold winter months,” Spaulding said. “It was well received by our families and they were happy to have a program for their child.”
The Start Smart Sports Development Program is a developmentally appropriate introductory sports program for children ages 3 to 5. The program prepares children for a variety organized youth sports in a fun, non-threatening environment in which parents get to participate alongside their child.
That parental involvement component is key, as moms and dads are exposed to teaching sports and motor skills to their child while gaining valuable insights that can assist those who go on to volunteer to coach youth sports teams.
“This program helps parents learn and grow along with their child,” Spaulding said. “It helps parents understand how to coach and guide young people, which we hope to have them help coach as they progress. Start Smart is a good tool to have them start that thought process early on and that is great.”
Fourteen children and their parents took part in the program, and staff saw lots of skill development among the participants.
“Our participants really enjoyed batting and the skill we saw the most improvement in by the kids was throwing,” Spaulding said. “Our parents loved the program from Day One until we stopped due to COVID-19. They were excited about how they could keep playing these activities at home with their child on their own. A group of parents at the end of one of our sessions expressed that our community needs programs like Start Smart. What I took from this was our community needs to remember that we have a group of children who need us to provide a program like Start Smart to teach children how to play sports in a non-competitive, fun and parent/child playing together type of program.”
With the addition of the Start Smart Sports Development Program to their line-up, the Teton County/Jackson Parks and Recreation staff can’t wait to get their programs up and running again.
“Providing quality and affordable programs for our community that will have a lasting effect on all participants is very important to us,” Spaulding said. “The Start Smart program was an easy way to bring a structured program to our organization. It helped us create a positive program on a Saturday morning that brought joy to families. This is an easy way to reach a new demographic with an easy-to-use program.”Start Smart Skills Confidence
National Alliance for Youth Sports, Inc
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West Palm Beach, Florida 33411
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