With the fall sports season rapidly approaching, the Douglas County Parks & Recreation is seeking coaches to help run nearly 40 youth flag football teams.
"We're always in need of more coaches, but we're trying to get out in front this year so that we're not having to scramble as the season starts," first-year Douglas County Parks & Recreation Coordinator Anthony Davis said. "We need 38 coaches, and right now we have eight. Obviously there is a sizable need, but we know there are people out there that would be great coaches."
Policy changes within the county have shaken up the timetable for coaches to get the necessary paperwork cleared before practices begin.
"That's the big change," Davis said. "Previously, everything would be OK as long as the coach's paperwork cleared before the season started."
Now, coaches in county youth sports programs must have cleared a background check before ever having contact with or access to the players and their families.
The necessity of the change has been hammered home by recent national events, including the ongoing scandal involving the Penn State University football program.
"That's the thing we want to get across is that it takes two or three weeks for a background check to be completed," Davis said. "It used to be we'd have our registration deadline for the league a week before the player draft. We simply can't do that anymore, otherwise we'd be scrambling to find coaches and we wouldn't have the time to clear them once they do turn in their paperwork."
So, this year, player registration closes on Aug. 24, the same day volunteer coach applications are due. The player draft will be Sept. 8 (two weeks after the close of registration) and games begin Sept. 22.
"The coach can sit in the draft with his or her application in process and actually pick a team, but we can't hand over forms and phone numbers until we get the background check back. So anyone who is interested in coach, we encourage them to start the process now.
"For parents, it's a great way to be involved with what their kids are doing. But for just general members of the community, serving as a volunteer coach provides so many benefits.
"I feel that every individual has something to share. When you are a volunteer coach, the benefit is not just for the participant. The coach can take pride in being able to walk out on the field or court and say 'I am here to represent this group of our community.' There is something lasting to that.
"A volunteer coach has to have patience and some organizational skills, but the most important thing is the desire to share. We have a theme that goes way back, 'Share Because You Care,' and that is exactly what is going to be true about our coaches."
As far as prior coaching experience, Davis said that isn't' something he is too worried about.
"We're going to step up our coaching education this year," he said. "Our coaching training will be open to the public. You don't necessarily have to be coaching flag football or even coaching with the recreation department. Obviously the training will be geared toward flag football, but it'll cover coaching in general. Maybe someone will come in and this will be their first introduction to coaching. Maybe they want to coach high school or something like that down the line. You learn important skills from coaching grass roots programs. It's about teaching and sharing - sharing something you really enjoy. By volunteering, you take a direct interest in this community and that is a wonderful thing."
The coach training clinic and barbecue will be Sunday, Sept. 9.
The NFL Youth Flag Football League runs from September to mid-November with one game a week. All games will be played on Saturdays at Stodick Park in Gardnerville, although teams will practice at various locations around the Valley.
Players receive a reversible NFL Flag Football jersey, a mouthpiece and an individual award. Players must be at least 6 and no older than 15 by Sept. 1.
Participants will be divided into four age groups.
Cost is $75 per participant.
Davis said the league is also looking for referees and officials. Training will be offered by Mark Wagoner (e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org).
"We need officials," Davis said. "You have to be at least 16 years old. It pays $15-18 an hour, and you can be working two to six games every Saturday. It's a good job opportunity.
For more information on volunteering to coach, contact Davis at email@example.com. More information on the league is available at dcprsports.com. For registration information, call the recreation department at 782-9828.