The City of Torrance Recreation Services staff in southern California never backs down from the challenges that accompany providing high-quality youth sports programs – and that was certainly evident during the past year.
And those terrific efforts helped it earn a prestigious Excellence in Youth Sports Award. The Excellence Awards were created by the National Alliance for Youth Sports and Athletic Business in 2000 and are annually presented to organizations who have gone above and beyond with a specific initiative, process, project, campaign, element or component of its program.
“We are really honored to be chosen for this award,” said Patti Goldenson, recreation supervisor at the City of Torrance. “It’s such a highlight to be recognized. We have an amazing staff that works so well together as a team, and they had to do things they had never done before and they were in all the way. They were very courageous.”
“I actually grew up playing in this program so it’s kind of ironic to come back and oversee these programs and be involved,” said Traci Fuentes, Community Service Leader IV at the City of Torrance. “We love what we do and we have great volunteers. COVID was definitely a challenge for us but we stood up to it and we proved that we could still do it. We found a way to provide for the kids and I know our community was super appreciative of it.”
Historically, its basketball program is its most popular, with more than 2,000 youth participants on more than 200 teams. But when the pandemic struck, the long-time staff faced the daunting task of converting their indoor basketball program into an outdoor one in which kids could still play the sport they loved amid creative changes that meshed with safety protocols.
The staff devised a Youth Sports Co-ed Outdoor Basketball Skills Clinic. They utilized Charles Wilson Park – a city-owned facility situated in the Los Angeles metropolitan area, which had three full outdoor basketball courts and an outdoor hockey rink that they converted into another basketball court.
Portable hoops were brought in, basketball court lines were made with tape, and non-stop fun quickly followed.
Safety was a focal point, as players were asked health questions and had their temperatures taken before entering any of the courts. Plus, they maintained social distancing while participating in the various skills challenges.
“The youth sports staff at the City of Torrance really delivered with its Basketball Skills Clinic while navigating incredibly challenging circumstances,” said John Engh, executive director of NAYS. “By keeping kids engaged and active in a sport they love, while emphasizing safety at all times, they were able to positively impact countless young lives and are a most deserving recipient of the Excellence in Youth Sports Award.”
To keep the communication flowing between staff, parents, volunteer coaches and participants, the City of Torrance staff created Youth Sports COVID-19 playbooks that outlined rules of behavior, safety protocols and other important information pertaining to COVID-19 and their program. These playbooks were continually updated and redistributed to ensure everyone had the most up-to-date information as the local health situation continued to evolve.
The Youth Sports Co-ed Outdoor Basketball Skills Clinic was so popular with kids that the staff ran it twice, showcasing its ability to provide fun-filled and safe opportunities for kids under the most difficult of circumstances.
The City of Torrance Recreation Services is one of four organizations to earn an Excellence in Youth Sports Award this year. To be considered for an Excellence Award an organization must first be designated as a Better Sports for Kids Quality Program Provider. This designation shows that organizations have met benchmark standards when it comes to administering youth sports programs.
The City of Torrance Recreation Services was honored during a special awards ceremony that took place at the 20th annual Youth Sports Congress in San Antonio, Texas, on Oct. 27-30. The four Excellence Award winners are also being celebrated during the NAYS Virtual Youth Sports Congress on Nov. 16-18.