U.S. Army Garrison-Hawaii Youth Sports excels through teamwork approach


To the staff at U.S. Army Garrison-Hawaii Youth Sports, “excellence” is developing a youth sports program that meets the ever-changing needs of the children and youth in Hawaii. Previously named an Honorable Mention recipient for the Excellence in Youth Sports Award in 2009, USAG Hawaii Youth Sports is recognized as one of the five award recipients of 2010. 

“It is gratifying for the hard work of everyone involved in the youth sports program to be recognized,” said Gus Harper, youth sports director at USAG Hawaii, Directorate of Family and MWR, Child Youth & School Services, Youth Sports and Fitness. 

“This is what we call a team award,” Harper said. “The dedication and help of people from many different departments in the Army, in addition to our volunteer coaches, participating children, their parents and the Hawaii Youth Sports staff contributed to receiving this award.”

One of the biggest challenges is that they don’t have their own facilities, Harper said. However, that doesn’t limit him and his staff from providing a diversified, quality youth sports program to more than 3,000 children.   

“Our situation has given us the opportunity to partner and coordinate within our Department of Family, Morale, Welfare and Recreation (DFMWR),” said Harper, in regard to working with other organizations to synchronize space for games and activities. 

For instance, when the state of Hawaii was under a tsunami alert one day in February 2010, all of the youth sports games that were scheduled had to be cancelled. They quickly coordinated with the organizations that they work with to schedule make-up dates so that no parent or child would be cheated out of a game. “We have truly turned a lemon situation into lemonade,” Harper said.   

The primary concern of USAG Hawaii Youth Sports is to put the needs of each child participating in their program first. This means providing a safe environment, equal playing time during a game, age appropriate activities and, most importantly, fun to each child taking part in their program.
In order to incorporate the voice of the community, Harper and his staff review and analyze the different ideas and opinions from their volunteer coaches, parents and participating youth. According to Harper and his staff, missed opportunities are often the result of someone’s idea not being valued.    

Although USAG Hawaii Youth Sports doesn’t have their own facilities, it doesn’t deter them from offering a quality youth sports program focused on providing children with safe and positive experiences in sports. In fact, it may just inspire them to work even harder in the areas they can control, such as staff development and continuing to put the needs of their child participants first.

Staff development is an important component in USAG Hawaii Youth Sports’ program. Their training requirements and credentials are monitored quarterly, and are a condition of employment. Also, staff training files, youth health assessments, coach’s certifications and background checks are inspected during annual visits by the Department of Defense. USAG Hawaii Youth Sports report that their program has sustained the highest level of excellence for the past five years, as documented by Department of Defense Certification Inspections.

Recognized among other Child Youth & School Services, Youth Sports and Fitness programs as “leading the way,” it is not uncommon for other Army installations to visit. USAG Hawaii Youth Sports have had the opportunity to host sports and fitness staff from other installations who have been sent by their Garrison Commanders to observe their programs, procedures, ideas, rules and regulations. 

For example, USAG Hawaii Youth Sports credits one of the main reasons for their youth sports program’s success is the effort put into research and idea development before implementing a new program. They research through the internet, periodicals, the NAYS website and the Army Child Youth Services connection website for information. Harper also collaborates with fellow youth sports directors for their insight. By assessing and modifying their ideas and plans USAG Hawaii Youth Sports can ensure that they are providing the highest quality programs and meeting their communities’ wants and needs.

Harper and his staff are aware of the importance of sustaining excellence. “It’s one thing to achieve excellence, but the goal for us as a team is to maintain that consistency as a program over a long period of time,” said Harper. 

Therefore, they plan to reach many goals over the next year. “We will continue to improve on our present and ongoing programs,” said Harper. “As well as continue to reach out to military and civilian communities for partnerships and develop new programs to target youth who are battling obesity in our community.”

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