Westport (Conn.) Recreation’s NYSCA mandate benefits all youth programs


Since 1981, the National Alliance for Youth Sports has given youth sports leaders the resources and tools they need to make a difference in their community. From volunteer education, like National Youth Sports Coaches Association (NYSCA) coach training to the prestigious Certified Youth Sports Administrator (CYSA) credential, youth sports leaders have been able to improve upon the safety and experience each child has while participating in their program.
At the Town of Westport (Conn.) Parks and Recreation department, a successful first-year experience with NYSCA training for their basketball program in 2001, combined with a CYSA credential that same year, motivated the department to investigate how outside user groups that used Town fields ran their programs.
“We evaluated the first year of the NYSCA program with our own youth basketball program and were very happy with how well it went and the curriculum so we decided to extend this out to the other providers in Town,” said Karen Puskas, CYSA, program manager at the Town of Westport Parks and Recreation department.
NYSCA training is designed to sensitize coaches to their roles and responsibilities in youth sports through an education in topics such as the psychology of coaching youth sports, communication, child abuse, injury prevention, nutrition and hydration, as well as skills and drills from nationally reputable sources specifically applicable to the sport that the coach is teaching.
As the community’s leader in youth sports, the recreation staff at Westport believes that it is their responsibility to ensure that the volunteers working with children in a youth sports environment receive appropriate training.
“We became an advocate for the kids,” said Puskas. “Mandating that all groups have NYSCA training and certification gives us the comfort to know that their volunteers have had some basic training in working with kids and gives the volunteers some guidelines to follow and be held accountable to.”
While the process of mandating NYSCA training to all outside user groups that use Town fields started slow, Puskas said that once a policy was in place it took off like “wildfire.” Since implementing the policy in 2001, more than 1,800 NYSCA-trained volunteer coaches have taken the fields for baseball, softball, soccer, lacrosse, field hockey, football and basketball.
Recreation staff works closely with a representative from each outside user group, who is appointed as a coordinator for each group’s NYSCA program. The coordinator is responsible for providing coaching applications, doing background checks and making sure that each of their volunteers go through, and maintain, NYSCA certification.
Among the on-going benefits NYSCA coaches receive include access to a special Member Area featuring a Skills and Drills section; the Coaching Forum, where volunteers can tap into the expertise of more than 100,000 coaches to gain insight on a variety of issues that are typically encountered while coaching children; and My Coach Ratings, where they can review evaluations to help them improve their coaching skills.
Members also receive a $1,000,000 liability insurance policy and a subscription to SportingKid magazine.

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