Pursuing Victory With Honor youth summit

Pursuing Victory With Honor youth summit


Leaders develop Gold Medal Standards and Action Plan

Larry Rosen and Paula Powell
Larry Rosen, CEO of the Metropolitan Los Angeles YMCA, makes a point as Paula Powell looks on.


Paula Powell was watching a youth football game when an angry parent suddenly seized a down marker and struck another parent between the eyes with it. “Kids were crying,” she says of the bloody attack. “I had my kids there, and they were scared. It was pretty bad.” The crime inspired her to create a program to stop parent misbehavior.

Although such cases are uncommon, they reflect a larger problem familiar in youth sports: unruly adults, taunting, running up scores, too much emphasis on winning, and too little on winning and losing well.

In February 2002 at Josephson Institute’s Pursuing Victory With Honor: A Summit on Youth Sports, 40 leaders from such youth programs as Little League, Pop Warner, AYSO, US Youth Soccer, USA Volleyball, US Tennis, the Amateur Softball Association, and USA Hockey came together to try to craft solutions. Paula Powell, park and rec operations supervisor in El Paso, Texas, was there, too.

They emerged with two major results: 1) the Gold Medal Standards, a common framework of requirements that all youth programs should meet, and 2) an Action Plan, a set of practical ways to implement the Gold Medal Standards. (See the Gold Medal Standards for Amateur Basketball.)

These may have consequences that affect all sports. The summit sought to embed sportsmanship in all children’s athletics, and that’s where most people initially encounter it. Individuals who learn to put honorable behavior first in childhood are more likely to do so as teens and adults.

The Youth Summit was a critical steppingstone in the Pursuing Victory With Honor strategy for improving ethical conduct in sports. It followed the Arizona Sports Summit Accord of 1999, which laid out principles for sportsmanship, and the 2001 Pursuing Victory With Honor Men’s and Boys’ Basketball Summit and its Gold Medal Standards for Amateur Basketball, a set of guidelines for implementing the Accord in that sport.

The delegates met in a room of chandeliers and hardwood columns at the historic Los Angeles Athletic Club. They sat at a long, narrow U-shaped table dotted with Diet Cokes and pitchers of ice water as Michael Josephson moved up and down the slot, asking questions, taking suggestions, sharpening language, working toward consensus.

Delegates discussed a variety of consensus measures including provisions that all youth sports programs should:

  • Develop a “mission and objectives” statement for staff, volunteers, and parents.

  • Require background checks for adults (volunteers and staff) who work with youth 14 and under that are to be completed before the adults come into contact with the children.

  • Provide a safe environment free of physical, emotional, or verbal abuse that is prudent with regard to risks of injuries and their treatment.

  • Adopt resolutions to prohibit activities such as fighting, spectator violence, taunting, verbal abuse by coaches or spectators, running up the score, and teaching or tolerating illegal tactics that violate the spirit of rules and tradition of sport.

  • Develop a strategy for emergency response and forms for involving local law enforcement and emergency-service providers as support.

  • Provide brief, easy-to-read parent-education materials and FAQs that include league rules and objectives, rules of the game, participation costs, practice and game schedules, and an explanation of how coaches are selected and trained.

  • Make codes of conduct available for coaches, officials, athletes, and parents.

  • Provide and distribute a kit that includes instructions to coaches and officials; banners and handouts; codes of conduct regulating pregame decorum for coaches, officials, and players; and a pregame audiotape.

In addition, sports facilities should require that youth sports programs set firm standards of safety and sportsmanship and hire qualified coaches.

List of summit delegates (titles at time of conference)

  1. Roger Blake, assistant executive director, California Interscholastic Federation
  2. Geoffrey Brown, executive director, Dwight Patterson Sports Academy
  3. Jon Butler, executive director, Pop Warner Football
  4. Dennis Campbell, executive vice president, Michigan Amateur Hockey Association
  5. Julie Cochran, assistant executive director, Illinois Elementary School Association
  6. Thomas Crawford, former director of coaching, U.S. Olympic Committee
  7. John G. Daniel, associate executive director, Girls and Boys Town USA
  8. Barbara Fiege, commissioner, California Interscholastic Federation – Los Angeles Section
  9. Harley Frankel, executive director, Inner City Games
  10. James Gerstenslager, district administrator, Little League Baseball, Western Region
  11. William Grobe, Ed.D., president, National Association of Secondary School Principals
  12. Jim Hallihan, executive director, Iowa State Games
  13. Jacqueline Hansen, director of coaching education, Amateur Athletic Foundation
  14. Linda Henry, Junior Olympic commissioner, Southern California Amateur Softball Association
  15. Michael Josephson, founder and president, Josephson Institute, CHARACTER COUNTS!, Pursuing Victory With Honor
  16. Stephen Keener, president & C.E.O., Little League Baseball, Inc.
  17. John Kessel, director, Coaching Education & Grassroots Programs, USA Volleyball
  18. Ron Kinnamon, chairman, CHARACTER COUNTS! Leadership Council
  19. Shari Young Kuchenbecker, Ph.D., professor, Loyola Marymount University, Author of Raising Winners
  20. Sam Lagana, national director, Pursuing Victory With Honor, CHARACTER COUNTS! Sports
  21. John Lansville, director of player development, Southern California Tennis Association
  22. Larry Lemak, M.D., chairman, National Center for Sports Safety
  23. Barry Mano, president, National Assnociation of Sports Officials
  24. Sedrick Mitchell, deputy director of external affairs, California State Parks
  25. Shane Murphy, Ph.D., assistant professor of psychology, Western Connecticut State University
  26. Paula Powell, sports operations supervisor, El Paso Parks and Recreation
  27. Larry Rosen, president & C.E.O., YMCA of Metropolitan Los Angeles
  28. Randy Sapoznik, executive director, United States Youth Volleyball League
  29. Celia Sawyer, director, Los Angeles Unified School District Youth Services
  30. David Light Shields, Ph.D., co-director, Mendelson Center for Sport, Character & Culture, University of Notre Dame
  31. Wendy Smith, director, Section 14, American Youth Soccer Organization
  32. James Staunton, Ed.D., commissioner, California Interscholastic Federation – Southern Section
  33. Frances Stronks, director, Section 1, American Youth Soccer Organization
  34. Cherie Tucker, national executive director, American Youth Soccer Organization
  35. Joanne Venditto, recreation supervisor, Los Angeles Department of Recreation and Parks
  36. Robert A. Wilkins, president & C.E.O., YMCA of the East Bay
  37. Patrick Wilson, director of regional operations, Little League Baseball, Inc.
  38. Jolene Woodhave, deputy director, Region IV, United States Youth Soccer
  39. Judith Young, Ph.D., executive director, National Association for Sport and Physical Education
  40. Jim Zebehazy, executive director, Young American Bowling Alliance