Magazine article Parks & Recreation

Advocacy Update: Facilitating Youth Sports

Magazine article Parks & Recreation

Advocacy Update: Facilitating Youth Sports

Article excerpt

Park and recreation organizations need to advance their leadership role in youth sports.

Public park and recreation agencies are the largest provider and facilitator of community-based youth sport opportunities in America. Not only do park and recreation agencies provide instructional programs and coordinate youth sport leagues, they manage an estimated 500,000 facilities that are permitted to independent youth sport organizations to conduct their own programs and leagues. The physical magnitude and influence of public policies developed and implemented by park and recreation systems has precipitated an expanded focus on youth sports as a core concern and issue for the field.

Since 1998, NRPA has engaged national partners and local park and recreation agencies to improve the quality of youth sports nationwide. Fundamentally, youth sports have been in transformation since the early 1980s when Proposition 13, a tax rollback initiative, significantly altered the funding landscape for public parks and recreation. Prior to Proposition 13, most youth sports were managed in-house by park and recreation staff. Today, an estimated 112,000 youth sport organizations operate the majority of program administration. The youth sport facility is still largely maintained by the public sector at parks and school facilities.

NRPA national sport partnerships initially focused on expanding or improving programs that would result in participation growth. The National Football League was the first national sport organization to fund informational resources that targeted parents with a resource titled "Fun First." Improving programming practices in tennis, basketball, baseball and football resulted from partnerships with national organizations, to impact sport programs delivered directly through park and recreation agencies.

In 2003, NRPA was fortunate enough to be selected for the Sports Illustrated 50th Anniversary Sportstown proposal, charged with designating one community in each state as the Sports Illustrated 50th Anniversary Sportstown. This national competition attracted applicants from 250 communities in all 50 states. Once the state winners were selected, NRPA analyzed the applications to identify strengths and weaknesses across numerous categories.

NRPA then worked with the National Football League Youth Football Fund to elevate the leadership role of parks and recreation to improve youth sports. Thirty-eight communities became magnet centers and convened communities around improving the quality of youth sports during 2004.

NRPA next launched the Sports Illustrated GOOD SPORTS(TM) program as a result of the findings in January 2005. More than 1,400 communities joined the initiative to improve youth sports through the following elements:

* Teach life skills through sports

* Empower success among youth through sports

* Promote physical activity and healthy lifestyles through sports

* Strengthen communities through youth sports

During the first year, 12 communities gained national visibility for their efforts to improve the quality of youth sports. Throughout this second year (2006-2007), NRPA has partnered with the Citizenship through Sports Alliance (CTSA) to conduct a Grassroots Report Card of Youth Sports in America as requested by the Congressional Caucus on Youth Sports. NRPA participated in the development of the CTSA National Youth Sports Report Card and is assisting local community efforts to benchmark their grassroots report card against the national findings. …

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