(Pictured above are Brittany Johnston, recreation manager at Liberty Parks and Recreation; legendary football coach Lou Holtz; and Paula Ruf, recreation coordinator.)

In the youth sports programs conducted by the Liberty Parks and Recreation staff in Missouri good sportsmanship abounds, thanks to an innovative initiative it devised that has raised awareness, produced results, and earned it an Excellence in Youth Sports Award.

The tone is set before the season, as all players and coaches take the department’s sportsmanship pledge, and it is reiterated throughout the season.

At the end of all games the head coach of each team chooses a player from the opposing team who has displayed the best sportsmanship. Those young athletes receive a special Liberty Parks and Recreation coin that can then be redeemed for a small popcorn at B and B Theaters, who the department partnered with for this initiative.

“If you look at the news today sportsmanship seems to be going on the downhill side so we really wanted to let the community know that our No. 1 priority in all of our programs is sportsmanship and the kids holding up good character,” says Brittany Johnston, recreation manager at Liberty Parks and Recreation and a Certified Youth Sports Administrator (CYSA). “So we came up with the sportsmanship coin to hopefully boost that and the coaches, players and parents love it. It has been accepted with open arms and we couldn’t have thought of anything better to do.”

Plus, photos of the kids receiving their coins are displayed on the city’s Facebook page recognizing their achievements.

“We ask the parents to take pictures and send them to us so we can share them on our Facebook page and on our website,” Johnston says. “And as sports programmers we love receiving that kind of email.”

The initiative is in place in all the department’s programs, both recreational and competitive. And kids can be recognized more than once.

At a time when countless youth sports programs are plagued by horrific displays of poor sportsmanship, both on the field and in the stands, the Liberty Parks and Recreation staff’s proactive approach has been embraced by the kids and fueled programs that keep the focus on quality, safety, fun and exceptional behavior. 

The initiative has also produced heart-warming stories such as this one: “We had a girl who actually made a necklace out of her sportsmanship coin so she could wear it to school to show it off,” Johnston says. “It’s been widely accepted and the kids love it.”

Liberty Parks and Recreation was one of four agencies to earn the Excellence in Youth Sports Award, which were presented during the 18th annual Youth Sports Congress, which ran in conjunction with the Athletic Business Show in Orlando, Fla. in mid-November. Legendary football coach Lou Holtz, who delivered the keynote address for the Athletic Business Show, congratulated the winners for their outstanding efforts.  

In order to be considered for an Excellence Award an organization must first be designated as a Better Sports for Kids Quality Program Provider. This designation shows that organizations have met benchmark standards when it comes to administering youth sports programs. Applying is easy – and free.

Liberty Parks and Recreation Sportsmanship Excellence Award Congress

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