In 1993, student athlete leaders participating in the Student Athlete Leadership Program conducted by AHA, joined NEWSDAY in a roundtable discussion on sportsmanship issues relevant to youth sports. The findings revealed an undercurrent of displeasure by the student athletes of over-zealous parents and complaints about having less time to pursue their other interests.
Twenty years later, the over-involvement of sports parents has become legendary as our youth sports culture is now dominated by travel teams, select teams and elite teams to the point where the “average” athlete has fewer and fewer opportunities to participate.
In the ensuing years, AHA has been working with others to strategize on ways to improve the youth sports landscape:
I) In 2002, AHA and the Nassau County Sports Commission sponsored legislation – The Fair Play Law – that was enacted by the Nassau County Legislature.
The bill requires youth sports leagues who use county venues to establish a volunteer position called The Fair Play Coordinator whose job it is to attend annual workshops designed to provide him/her with materials and activities that promote fair play and sportsmanship
II) As a result of the Fair Play Law, two large youth sports leagues adopted versions of the law.
Nassau/Suffolk CYO in conjunction with AHA has conducted Fair Play workshops for over 6000 CYO coaches. CYO/AHA has established Fair Play Coordinators in a majority of parishes to make fair play promotion a truly systemic commitment. Suffolk PAL Hockey has embraced fair play by working with AHA to create a multi-faceted approach toward generating a healthy sports environment:
a) Annual Parents Fair Play Workshop – Parents are educated on the concerns about youth sports and are required to participate in the Suffolk PAL Hockey’s “3 Must” program that details etiquette and expectations.
b) The Parent Rep – Parents are trained on how to review the “3 Must” commitment on a ten game basis.
c) Coaches Training – PAL coaches attend four workshops annually to provide them with the tools to understand adolescents and to promote coaches as teachers.
III) AHA Professional Staff Development/Education
In an effort to enlist the educational community to reform youth sports, AHA has created the following for the professional development catalogue:
a) BOCES Professional Development Classes
Leadership Development I & II
Sports Parenting I
b) Undergraduate and graduate classes at Adelphi University