More than 30 million children participate in organized youth sports programs nationwide. According to Sue Castle, executive producer of PBS Sports: Get in the Game, the evidence supporting involvement for young people is overwhelming; it has the power to combat everything from racism to low self-image to the high school dropout rate. Participation in sports also helps build teamwork, work ethic, responsibility, sportsmanship, and respect.
Although it’s important to recognize talent and strengths, it’s also important to acknowledge the value of other attributes. According to the National Alliance for Youth Sports, awarding any award that’s going to devalue the performance of other team players is not appropriate in youth sports. However, awards not intended to recognize only high skilled players can be appropriate. Examples of these types of awards include
- Most Dedicated
- Best Sportsmanship
- Most Improved
- Hardest Worker
- Most Enthusiastic
- Model Teammate.
Awards such as these can recognize a child’s actions without necessarily singling out “good” and “bad” players. Being recognized makes each player feel like a valued member of the team; recognition adds confidence and spreads good will.
How to Recognize
Creating a recognition program to honor athletes for a number of athletic achievements is easy with the buy-in from school administrators, athletic directors, or association sponsors. Recognition programs are designed to award all types of athletes from the star quarterback and head coach to the dedicated team manager and water boy. Because there are a number of people who contribute to the success, camaraderie, and organization of a team, your award program should include categories/honors to acknowledge the various contributions of team members. The most important element is to create a program that allows the individuals nominated to receive that important moment of recognition and to fully realize the value of their accomplishments. The following recommendations will contribute greatly to making this a meaningful recognition program:
- Establish rules, which define the theory or conditions of the award.
- Establish selection criteria and procedures.
- Plan the calendar, which specifies the time frame of the awards procedures.
- Determine your budget, which specifies the financial frame of the awards procedures.
- Create a program that allows for the recognition of many—star athlete, most dedicated, most improved, head or assistant coach, team captain, etc.
- Promote the meaning of the award prior to the program and throughout the school year (i.e., what does it mean to be an “Achievement Medallion Award recipient?”). This will lend credibility and prestige to the award.
- Decide what type of award recipients will receive—medallions, ribbons, trophies, plaques, and certificates.
- Invite the student’s parents or guardians to attend the ceremony. Invite the nominating faculty or athletic staff member to the ceremony to read the nomination of his or her student. Invite team members to the ceremony in support of the nominee.
- Award each student with the custom award or a personal note and a copy of the nomination from the faculty or staff member as tangible mementos of their recognition.
- Offer constructive criticism to help refine and improve the program on a yearly basis.