Proud to join the CoachSafely team
Nick Saban likes being part of a team. He's said that a lot in recent years. Of all the things I've heard him say since he changed the college football landscape by coming to Alabama, that simple sentence resonates the most.
He could ride off into a lucrative sunset at any time, but he keeps doing what he's done as well as anyone has ever done it. Why? There's something special about being part of a team.
Saban knows that. It's why he got misty after Jalen Hurts saved the day in the 2018 SEC Championship Game. You know it, too, even if your sideline or dugout experience is simply herding a ragtag collection of 4-year-old baseball players and, more than a decade later, having them still call you "Coach."
That's why I'm excited to share the news that I've joined a new team as director of communications for the CoachSafely Foundation, a team of distinguished men and women dedicated to keeping our kids active, healthy and safe through youth sports.
Thanks to CoachSafely, a 501(c)(3) non-profit foundation, we in Alabama can say we're No. 1 in something other than college football. We can say we live in the first state in the country to pass a law requiring coaches of young athletes aged 14 and under to pass a comprehensive training course to help those coaches prevent injuries if possible and recognize them when necessary.
The CoachSafely Foundation team includes such heavy hitters as former college football coach Jack Crowe, the founder and chairman; Dr. James Andrews, the medical director; UAB coach Bill Clark, the vice president; and Dr. David Satcher, a former U.S. surgeon general and member of the CoachSafely advisory board.
Saban himself wrote a passionate letter advocating for the 2018 passage of the Coach Safely Act, as did other prominent coaches in the state. You'll be hearing more from them soon as we spread the word that this initiative isn't just the law for youth coaches in the state of Alabama. It's the right thing to do as we work together to keep kids in sports safe, which keeps them involved, which keeps them out of the doctor's office and in school.
People on a national level are noticing. Last month, the Aspen Institute's Project Play initiative named the CoachSafely Foundation one of 20 Project Play Champions in the youth sports arena across the country. It's our mission to get the message and the training course out to every youth coach in the state - most of whom are volunteers, many of them parents, too many of them without any training - in just about every sport you can name.
Wayne Moss, executive director of the National Council of Youth Sports, spoke at a Youth Sports Safety conference at the Alabama Sports Hall of Fame in June. Moss said he "was floored" when he discovered the groundbreaking work being done by CoachSafely.
"I don't think the people outside of these doors really know what's going on," Moss said. "I don't think they get that something miraculous has happened here. There will be a day that we look back and we'll see that youth sports safety training, which is required by law, started in Alabama."
This bold effort flows from a simple idea. You wouldn't drop your son or daughter off at a pool without a lifeguard. So why would you drop them off for an hour or more several times a week for practices with an untrained youth coach?
The Alabama Recreation and Parks Foundation, through a joint venture with the CoachSafely Foundation, is doing a terrific job delivering the training course on a grassroots level, but there's much more work to do.
I hope to help because I know exactly what Nick Saban means. My favorite teams aren't the ones I covered as a sports writer en route to conference or national championships but the ones I coached whose seasons ended with a team party for my two sons and their friends.
I wish I had taken this training course when I was coaching young baseball players in ragball, T-ball, coach pitch, player pitch and travel ball and young basketball players at the community park. I wish I'd had a more practical education in making the experience as valuable as possible for them.
Now I'm blessed to be part of the CoachSafely team as we try to assist the current coaches of those community park teams. Those moms and dads are the real champions among us. They're taking the time to make a positive impact on our kids because they know what it means to be part of a team.