Opening Day: Virtual Youth Sports Congress under way

Opening Day: Virtual Youth Sports Congress under way


Our 19th annual Youth Sports Congress – taking place virtually for the first time due to the pandemic – kicked off earlier today with a power-packed lineup.

Hundreds of attendees from around the world were treated to an opening keynote from Dr. Katrina Piercy, Physical Activity and Nutrition Advisor at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

During her presentation she shared valuable information regarding the National Youth Sports Strategy, which was developed by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and provides actionable strategies to increase participation in youth sports, increase awareness of the benefits of youth sports participation, monitor and evaluate youth sports participation, and recruit and engage volunteers in youth sports programming.
“Our vision is that one day all youth will have the opportunity, motivation, and access to play sports – regardless of their race, ethnicity, sex, ability or ZIP code,” she said. “This is even more important right now as we’re in the COVID-19 pandemic and we realize there are disparities when it comes to youth sports participation.”

The day’s first session tackled stress management, something we’re all dealing with during these unprecedented times. Presented by John Kriger, author and consultant who serves as an adjunct faculty member at the Rutgers Center for Alcohol Studies, and School of Social Work Office of Continuing Education, he also shared a variety of techniques for navigating our daily tasks and being more proficient and productive with our time.

“When we focus in on what we want to achieve it really does help us to become more resilient and more satisfied in the outcomes we want because we’re not going into it in a haphazard way,” he said.

Dr. Ann Lebeck’s session addressed the ever-growing problem of specialization in youth sports and how it relates to the alarming rise in injuries being sustained by young athletes. Dr. Lebeck is a primary care sports medicine physician who has spent the past eight years working with athletes at the high school, collegiate and professional level, and it was heartbreaking to hear what she’s seeing in her office these days.

“As a physician I have had many experiences where young athletes begged me to tell their parents they were too injured to play and they didn’t want clearance to return to the sport,” she shared.

The day’s third session took a look at the role of youth sports in developing physical literacy and setting children up for a lifetime love of healthy physical activity. •

Children need to develop those basic motor skills, and have the confidence to perform them – otherwise the outcome is a bleak one.

“A lot of the literature shows that children who do not develop some of the manipulation skills like throwing and catching very well have a much more difficult time and they tend to be among the first to drop out,” said Dr. Rick Howard, an Assistant Professor in Applied Sports Science at West Chester University in Pennsylvania.

And Dr. Tony Moreno, a professor of kinesiology at Eastern Michigan University who co-presented the session with Dr. Howard, addressed how it’s a long and slow process that coaches, parents and even kids must understand and adapt to.

“Athletic development is a process – it’s not something that we can microwave,” Dr. Moreno said. “It’s more of a crockpot. It’s slow cooking.”

The opening day of the Virtual Youth Sports Congress wrapped up with a roundtable discussion on Return to Play protocols, where attendees had the chance to share and learn from their peers on how they are handling conducting programs during the pandemic.

Day Two gets rolling at 11 am EST Thursday. On the agenda is four outstanding sessions: Purpose Based Recognition with Lori Hoffner; Toughening Athletes Up or Harming their Brains: 8 Myths with Dr. Jen Fraser; Inclusion Isn’t Scary with Lane Gram; and Facility Allocation: Who is Using Your Fields with Ed Saiz and Kate Nematollahi.

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