Recreation professionals across the country, and on U.S. military bases worldwide, took part in last week’s first-ever Virtual Youth Sports Congress from the comfort of their homes and offices.
And came away raving about the experience.
“I thought it was fantastic,” said Rebecca Chinsky, Senior Director of Aquatics and Recreation at the JCC of Greater Baltimore.
Added Rhett Gardiner, Program Manager of the West Valley City Family Fitness Center in Utah: “I thought the conference being held virtually was awesome.”
Those were the overriding comments echoed by numerous attendees, many of whom had plans to be in Baltimore this year for the annual Youth Sports Congress. The signature event of the National Alliance for Youth Sports, the Congress has been held for the past 18 years at a variety of venues around the country. This year’s event, scheduled for Baltimore in conjunction with the Athletic Business Show and Expo, was canceled due to the pandemic.
During these unprecedented times, where social distancing and Zoom meetings are the new normal, the Virtual Congress format enabled attendees to still take part in sessions and learn all-important information, communicate with the speakers, and engage with their peers.
While all the sessions were pre-recorded, the speakers were live on Zoom at the conclusion of their sessions to respond to questions from the attendees. A live chat box also ran alongside the presentations, enabling attendees to post comments and share insights with each other as subject matter was presented. Plus, the entire educational event is available until mid-December for those who attended to go back and review if they want.
“I thought the live Q and A’s were really valuable to me as a professional,” Gardiner said. “I also find myself going back and re-watching some of the videos and taking more detailed notes. Being able to do this really helps me as a professional stay motivated and positive about things and is really beneficial for program coordinators.”
The three-day Congress line-up was packed with informative sessions on important youth sports issues that addressed gender equity, inclusion, bullying, physical literacy, facility allocation, recognizing staff and volunteers and specialization and injuries.
“I loved the information regarding the effects of bullying,” said Francis Johnson, the Sports Coordinator at Naval Air Station Lemoore in California. “As sad as it is, we need to be equipped with the tools to combat several of our children’s problems in society. I also loved to hear the feedback regarding how each facility was handling the COVID-19 environment and whether they were open or not.”
Shawna Figy, the Camp Verde Parks and Recreation Coordinator in Arizona, found the session on inappropriate adult behavior and bullying to be one of the most valuable ones.
“This subject, when it comes to coaching behaviors toward athletes, hits home as I have been watching my kids go through this over the last few years in high school sports,” she said. “It is frustrating to be the only parent or coach that sees this and stands up for what is right. It has made me feel like I am crazy, and these sessions helped me regain my motivation to keep fighting for the kids.”
A Congress staple is also providing sessions that go beyond the boundaries of youth sports and have applications in other areas of life, and this year was no different with presentations on building and maintaining healthy relationships and stress management.
“I think there was a great spectrum of topics presented that can be applied to jobs beyond being a youth sports administrator,” Chinsky said. “I wear many hats in my role and don’t just handle youth sports, so sometimes I find the material presented at the Congress is more applicable to parks and rec professionals who don’t work for smaller agencies. The sessions that weren’t necessarily youth sports related – like purpose-based recognition or regaining equilibrium – hit really close to home in light of budget cuts and all the extra responsibilities I and others on my team are handling.”Virtual Congress CYSA Leadership Bullying Gender Equity Inclusion Stress Management
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