In Alabama, we know what it means to be called a champion. It means you've accomplished something special.
Add Alabama's own CoachSafely Foundation to this state's distinguished roster of champions.
This week, CoachSafely is being honored by the Aspen Institute's national Project Play initiative as a Project Play Champion at the Project Play Summit in Detroit. Of the 20 local, regional and national organizations to earn that designation for their meaningful work to help build healthy children and communities through sports, CoachSafely is the only one based in Alabama.
Jack Crowe, the founder and chairman of the CoachSafely Foundation, called the recognition "a tremendous honor."
"We at the CoachSafely Foundation thank the Aspen Institute Sports & Society Program and Project Play for the national leadership they provide," Crowe said. "We're all striving toward a common goal to make participation in sports an inclusive, enduring and positive experience for our youth. This recognition helps to validate our mission to keep children active, healthy and safe by educating youth coaches at the grassroots level."
In 2018, thanks to CoachSafely's efforts, Alabama became the first state to pass a law requiring youth coaches of athletes aged 14 and under to pass a broad-based course in injury recognition and prevention. Other states have begun to study the Coach Safely Act as a model for similar legislation.
The CoachSafely Foundation developed just such a comprehensive course, which covers: 1) Emergency preparedness, planning and rehearsal for traumatic injuries; (2) Concussions and head trauma; (3) Heat and extreme weather-related injury familiarization; (4) Physical conditioning and training equipment usage; (5) Heart defects and abnormalities leading to sudden cardiac death; (6) Overuse injuries; and (7) Emotional health of the Child-Athlete.
Through a joint venture between CoachSafely and the Alabama Recreation and Parks Foundation, about 12,000 youth coaches throughout Alabama have completed the training course to help keep their athletes as safe as possible. CoachSafely maintains a database of coaches who've completed the training course, which is available online or in person.
The CoachSafely Foundation's impact can be measured both by the number of youth coaches trained locally and by this national recognition for its groundbreaking efforts to equip those coaches with the knowledge that will enable them to prevent injuries if possible and recognize them when necessary.
The Aspen Institute's Sports & Society Program launched its Project Play initiative in 2013 "to apply and share knowledge that helps build healthy communities through sports, to produce reports that take measure of the state of play at the national, regional and city levels, with exclusive data and insights, and to create frameworks and tools that stakeholders can use to grow access to quality sport."
Among the other organizations honored this week as Project Play Champions are Special Olympics, for developing an implementation guide for coaches that will increase its developmental sports offerings; the U.S. Soccer Foundation, for advancing the development of mini-pitches in areas where space is at a premium; and US Lacrosse and USA Field Hockey, for partnering to develop a multi-sport sampling program.
So CoachSafely finds itself in good company doing good work for a good cause. Which is another definition of champion.
For more information, go to CoachSafely.org.