United States Sports Academy
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The Sport Digest - ISSN: 1558-6448

Advocating for Youth Wellness in Private Organizations

Professional organizations dedicated to specific fields are commonplace in the modern physical education landscape. Professional associations like the American Alliance for Health, Physical Education, Recreation, and Dance (AAHPERD) spend a great deal of time advocating for effective and responsible physical education in schools promoting the lifelong pursuit of wellness. Despite their best efforts schools often continue to implement physical education and sport programs at levels below recommendations needed to achieve the benefits of regular physical education (Wuest & Bucher, 2009). The current state of physical education for youth has led to the increasing privatization of sport and fitness programs (Mechikoff & Estes, 2006). A major component of this privatization is competitive sports programs (Coakley, 2007). With the continued growth of these private programs what is being done or could be done to advocate for the best interest of youthful participants in these organizations?

Professional organizations dedicated to promoting lifelong wellness have attempted to advocate these goals for society regardless of age. The largest of these groups, AAHPERD, provides research for sport and wellness professionals, workshops to learn the latest techniques relating to new research, and participates in wellness advocacy across many elements of society (Wuest & Bucher 2009). While they have influenced many they have yet to make any notable inroads into private sport for youth. As it stands now the governing bodies of each sport often have the most influence on the commitment, or lack there of, to promoting healthy goals for coaches, and participants (Coakley, 2007).

Several enterprises exist as umbrella organizations to individual sports. A few cover multiple sports. The Amateur Athletic Union (AAU) organizes competition for over 30 sports (AAU, n.d.). Even more numerous are the organizations dedicated to individual sports. Many of the individual sport agencies are related to Olympic sports. United States Association of Volleyball (USAV) is the governing body for U.S. Olympic volleyball. USAV lists many goals for its programs. Their web site (n.d.) states “volleyball has so many positive things to offer those who participate. First, and most importantly, whether one is a gifted athlete or a recreational player, volleyball is FUN! It is a lifetime sport enjoyed by players from 8 to 80”

This quote is in line with the stated goals of groups like AAHPERD advocating lifelong fitness and wellness (n.d. as cited by Wuest & Bucher, 2009). On the other hand USAV is dedicated to winning as many international competitions as possible listing this as a reason for organizing youth competition (USAV, n.d.). These two goals might be able to coexist if a great deal of instruction was given to those carrying out the coaching of youth programs but sadly this is not the case. The requirement to coach at the junior level of USAV is a two-hour class that does not require continued education (personal communication with Wendy Sapp Rocky Mountain Region of USAV). Private volleyball clubs are now big business and they carry out the goal of developing athletes to win utilizing their own methods, most often emulating professional models of performance in athletics as opposed to advocating models emphasizing lifelong wellness. This model for sport is shared by most private youth sport organizations (Coakley, 2007).

Pursuing goals of performance has led to many problems in youth sports. Overuse injuries, burnout, and the exclusion of poor and minority groups are a few of the issues rising from the current system (Coakley, 2007). Advocacy for youth is necessary to change these patterns. Many groups have published papers and guidelines for coaches to help steer clear of these pitfalls. The National Association for Sport and Physical Education (NASPE) has published papers outlining the rights of athletes to participate, national standards for coaches, and information for parents about youth participation in sport, all with the idea of advocating wellness through participation in and out of school (as cited by Wuest & Bucher, 2009). Many groups advocate for the rights of youth athletes by creating and publishing athlete rights. AAHPERD created the Young Athletes’ Bill of Rights. The Bill of Rights includes qualified adult leadership, the right to have fun, standards that model sport with the interest of treating children like kids and not adults, the right to participate regardless of ability level and other kids rights (AAHPERD as cited by Wuest & Bucher, 2009). The rights outlined by AAHPERD address many of the problems created by private clubs. It seems that educated physical educators are pursuing advocacy for private athletes.

The problem lies in an area previously mentioned. Umbrella organizations do not require any real coaching standards. Without required continuing education private coaches often do not progress their knowledge of health and wellness instead often seeking programs that teach only how to progress playing skills (Coakley, 2007). The papers written by NASPE or AAHPERD’s Young Athletes’ Bill of Rights do not find their way into private coaches hands. With this breach in distribution and learning how can advocacy groups get their message of lifelong wellness to private youth sports?

I believe the answer is in an annoying car commercial. An organization known as Car Fax has begun an ad campaign directed at consumers. Car fax seeks to sell their service, detailing the history of car ownership and use, to car dealerships across the country by telling consumers if the car dealership does not have car fax available perhaps they are hiding something wrong with the car (CarFax, 2010). This is genius. Professional advocacy groups, like AAHPERD and NASPE, could combine resources to create a new agency advocating an agreed upon platform for supporting wellness through participation. This agency, let’s call it the Youth Athlete Paradigm (YAP), could embark on a campaign, outlining the goals for private youth sport requiring private coaches to embark on a continuing education program. Private groups will not view this to be in their best interest so it will be important to sell this service to participants parents in the same way as Car Fax sells its service, by appealing to the customer. Radio adds in big markets could let families know that if your private sport club does not have a Youth Athlete Paradigm certification there might be something wrong. Some clubs would participate to get an edge on competition eventually making YAP certifications desirable for private coaches. Proceeds from the enrollment in YAP classes could be used to expand the program to reach smaller markets and would provide jobs for wellness professionals with an eye toward the social benefits of exercise. The continued expansion of classes would give YAP’s founding advocacy groups access to coaches they were previously unable to reach. Education might then allow for a slow change in the current professional model of private youth sports.

Advocacy groups exist for wellness in society. The groups believe the trend of continuing privatization of youth sport and the professional model of participation employed by coaches for young athletes hurts youth. Without a reason to change many of these private coaches will continue to look after their own goals and needs instead of considering the health and potential lifelong participation of their young athletes. In order to advocate for youth professional societies should seek to gain control of private coaching standards. Education may be able to change the direction of private youth sports.


AAU (n.d.) The real AAU. Retrieved January 25, 2010 from http://www.aausports.org/

CarFax (2010, January 24) CarFax commercial [Television broadcast]. NBC

Coakley, J. (2007). Sports in society. New York, NY: McGraw-Hill

Mechikoff, Robert A. & Estes, Steven G. (2006) A history and philosophy of sport and physical education. New York, NY: McGraw-Hill

USAV (n.d.) About USAV. Retrieved January 25, 2010 from http://usavolleyball.org/pages/6

Wuest D.A. & Bucher C.A. (2009). Physical education, exercise science, and sport. New York, NY: McGraw-Hill