in collaboration with Lisa Davol of Oconee County Parks and Recreation
Stories about parent-coach interaction often revolve around the disagreements that occur during youth sports events. But in Oconee County, they have a lot of very positive interaction, partly because they have established a community partnership with the National Alliance for Youth Sports (NAYS). This collaboration consists of 3 components: Coach’s Code of Ethics, Coach’s Standards and Parent’s Code of Ethics.
Oconee Parks and Rec takes this one step further and requires parents to participate in PAYS. PAYS stands for Parent Alliance for Youth Sports, and is a one-time clinic that parents can take online or in person through Oconee County Parks and Recreation.
“PAYS addresses how to be a good sports parent,” says Lisa Davol, deputy director of programs for Oconee County Parks and Recreation. “We as a league are looking to the parents to get their children to the practices and games on time, that they have had breakfast before a Saturday practice or game, to be supportive of the coach and to cheer for both teams.”
According to Davol, one parent out of every household is required to complete the clinic before the child can compete in any of the games. The course only has to be taken once when the first child in a household signs up for their first sport.
The process is taken very seriously by the parks and recreation department. Parents are required to sign a pledge and, in fact, if there is a parent that doesn’t follow those guidelines, they are removed from games and even from parks. In extreme cases, parents have been banned for a year from the park. “It’s a kid-first focus; it’s all about them,” says Davol. “We are looking to create a safe and fun environment.”
A staff member from the parks and rec department is at every field for practices and games. If there is any question about rules … if anyone needs directions to a certain field … if there is a need for first aid (staff members are all first aid certified and CPR trained) … if a parent does not live up to the expectations of his/her pledge … the staff member is there to help.
According to Davol, participation in parks and rec programs has increased tremendously since instituting PAYS. Since the organization began participating in the NAYS community partnership in 2002, incidents of a serious nature have declined steadily and are now quite rare. Parents are given clear expectations, and their relationship with the league is founded on respect and understanding. In fact, the vast majority of parents are completely committed to adhering to the components of the program.
Oconee Parks and Rec’s partnership with NAYS provides an across the board standard for the coaches, parents, households and spectators. Background checks are run on all volunteers to the program, including coaches. Coaches attend a NAYS clinic that is very generalized; they are briefed on safety on the field, about the importance of abstinence from tobacco or alcohol while coaching. Then the coaches have to participate in a sport-specific clinic as well.
Being a supportive parent means getting your children to practices and games on time and in uniform. But it also means supporting coaches’ decisions about playing time and positions. It is important to allow the coach to be the coach, and to cheer on the team. Coaches and other spectators alike will appreciate the atmosphere more if these things happen.