Life-Changing Programs

The most important part of youth sports is having positive, qualified people to coach, officiate, and supervise the programs. These people are the face of our programs, the critical link in the success of our sports offerings. Another key is understanding the needs of the community, and making programs accessible for everyone. Prices need to be reasonable, scholarships need to be available, and, in my position, I need to be involved in the programs so I get to know these people, and they can get to know me. Finally, it takes a ton of support to provide quality youth-sports programs. Directors and supervisors who are passionate about the community are important. Support from schools and the city council are crucial to have everyone buy in to what we are doing. Creating partnerships and fostering relationships make for a stronger community and a great place for kids and sports to thrive. 

Tell me about your best youth-sports memory and how that has affected how you approach your job today? 

My best memory playing sports as a child was finally convincing my youth baseball coach that I could play shortstop. I was the youngest kid on the team, playing up two age divisions. He routinely stuck me in right field, if I played at all, and I started to lose interest. Thankfully, my parents would not let me quit, so I asked my coach if I could try shortstop during a practice scrimmage. He let me do it, and I was able to make a couple of plays that day. My performance was good enough to merit some playing time at short in the next game. Things went well, and I ended up making the all-star team at the end of the season. I am thankful to my parents for not letting me give up, and my coach for giving me a chance. That experience has caused me to encourage coaches to give kids opportunities to try different positions, regardless of the sport, because you never know who might step up and surprise you. Also, I can pass along to kids that they should not give up when things don’t go their way, and to persevere, work hard, and keep trying to get better, and good things will happen. 

Not every child will have a positive experience no matter how great a job you do. How do you deal with that aspect of the job? 

While I am passionate about my job, I have had to accept that sports aren’t for everyone. I still believe that every kid should have an opportunity to try as many sports as possible, and if it doesn’t work, at least they tried. There are many reasons why kids don’t have an enjoyable experience playing sports, and some of it can be attributed to unrealistic expectations. At the start of each season, we try to educate parents on what they should expect from their chosen youth sport. In addition, not all coaches are created equal, and some are just better than others, which can have an influence on a child’s experience. That said, I continue to offer the best programs possible, and try to focus on the experience of each child and make it an enjoyable one. 

Fred Engh is founder and CEO of the National Alliance for Youth Sports (NAYS) inWest Palm Beach,Fla. He can be reached via e-mail at To join more than 3,000 communities by starting a NAYS chapter, visit or contact Emmy Martinez at or (800) 729-2057.





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