January 1997

Grant Results


From 1993 to 1996, the National Youth Sports Coaches Association, West Palm Beach, Fla., the only national nonprofit organization that certifies volunteer youth coaches, carried out two related but separate initiatives:

  • Revise all the training material for its coach-certification program to include information about the dangers of tobacco and steroids and about the needs of the HIV-positive athletes.
  • Establish in five cities (San Antonio, Texas; Oakland, Calif.; Portland, Ore.; Denver; and Indianapolis.) All-American Drug-Free Leagues with help from the National Basketball Association.

Key Results

  • Association staff helped to educate/certify 344,000 coaches, affecting an estimated 3.6 million children.
  • Five All-American Drug-Free Leagues were funded, drawing 19,000 participants, with demand exceeding capacity.

The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) supported the project with a grant of $583,484 between June 1993 and May 1996.

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Partly in response to critics of youth sports, the National Youth Sports Coaches Association (NYSCA) was created in 1981 to ensure that children participating in sports would have a positive experience, free of stress caused by untrained coaches and leagues lacking operating standards. According to NYSCA, of the 20 million youths playing sports, about 70 percent drop out before age 13 because of a negative experience and/or undue competitive pressure, leaving a critical social void with temptation for drug and alcohol use.

NYSCA has 2,000 chapters in 50 states, with 5,000 instructors who certify coaches through its membership program. To qualify for membership, coaches complete a three-part video certification program administered over a three year period by a local instructor. In 1988, with funding from the Federal Office for Substance Abuse Prevention, education about substance abuse was incorporated into the certification material, and NYSCA developed the National Standards for Youth Sports, which were endorsed by 102 national organizations, to act as guiding policy in the administration of youth sports. With time, NYSCA recognized a need to educate coaches about tobacco, steroids, and HIV, and to update the National Standards, which already covered drugs and alcohol, to also include information on tobacco. NYSCA also wanted to find new ways to reach out to inner-city children, and to build on a program piloted in 1992 in San Antonio, Texas, the All-American Drug-Free Team League (AADFL), a basketball league for boys and girls partially funded by the National Basketball Association (NBA).

In January 1993, The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) decided to work with youth sports programs as part of a broader Foundation strategy to reach children through drug-prevention programs that minimize risk factors and enhance protective factors at various developmental stages.

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This grant provided funding for two related but distinct program strategies: The first, Initiative One, was designed to strengthen the training of coaches regarding tobacco, steroids, and HIV by:

  1. integrating these subjects into the coaches certification program and requiring coaches to view the new educational video;
  2. providing orientation workshops for state and district coordinators.

A concurrent goal, to positively influence the youth-in-sports population, was addressed by:

  1. revising NYSCA's National Standards for Youth Sports to include guidelines about the dangers of tobacco use;
  2. promoting, through the use of promotional stickers, smoke-free sports environments.

NYSCA's second strategy, Initiative Two, was to expand to five cities (San Antonio, Texas; Oakland, Calif.; Portland, Ore.; Denver, Colo.; and Indianapolis, Ind.) its All-American Drug-Free Team League (AADFL) with the goal of:

  1. extending NYSCA's coach-certification program to inner cities;
  2. expanding the role of a coach to that of a mentor;
  3. establishing a drug-free norm, thus boosting players' sense of unity and self-esteem.

Each of the cities selected as an AADFL site was required to have a commitment from an NBA team to help fund the league by at least matching the seed money from RWJF's grant: $10,000 to each site the first year, and $5,000 the second year. With the help of the NBA teams, and of agencies such as the local department of parks and recreation, NYSCA developed financial and management resources for each city. (The average NBA team contribution was $20,000; in-kind services — use of community centers, gyms, referees — were provided by organizations such as the YMCA and the Boys and Girls Club.) NYSCA hoped that by the end of the grant, it would have obtained outside funding for five new AADFL sites.

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  • NYSCA revised and distributed all materials for the coach-certification program. Included: Videos for Basic, 2nd and 3rd level certification of coaches; The Coaches Members Handbook,The Coaches Fieldbook Manual and other publications designed to help coaches discuss the dangers of substance abuse, tobacco, steroids, and HIV with team members. With the material, NYSCA educated 120,000 coaches a year, affecting 3.6 million children. NYSCA's National Standards for Youth Sports were revised to include tobacco warnings; stickers were distributed to promote NYSCA's efforts to modify the sports environment.
  • Various youth groups formed partnerships with NYSCA to educate coaches. They include the American Youth Soccer Organization, the Universal Cheerleading Association, the Boys and Girls Clubs of America, and the Optimists International.
  • Five Leagues were funded, drawing 19,000 youths. These were: San Antonio (San Antonio Spurs, 3,600 players, plus 6,400 from suburbs); Oakland (Golden State Warriors, 1,800 players); Portland (Portland Trail Blazers, 4,240 players); Denver (Denver Nuggets, 2,800 players); and Indianapolis (Indiana Pacers, 700 players).
  • More than 90 percent of the AADFL coaches in the five cities participated in NYSCA's certification program. All coaches and players pledged a drug-free lifestyle.


  • The implementation of the AADFL program and the training of coaches varied from site to site. Although there was at least one certified coach per AADFL team, NYSCA was unable to ensure that all AADFL coaches went through its training program.


Through this grant, numerous educational and training materials (videos, pamphlets, stickers, and guides) were revised and distributed to representatives of various youth sports groups, including United States military personnel who oversee sports programs on base, and the directors of Canadian recreation agencies. Several national conferences were held for NYSCA state directors. The revised National Standards for Youth Sports were distributed to NYSCA's 2000 chapters. In each AADFL site, local media publicized league activities (see the Bibliography).

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  1. Programs designed to educate youth about sensitive subjects require extensive training for adult leaders. Leagues must train coaches thoroughly and select volunteers comfortable discussing intimate subjects because, without such training, some coaches are reluctant to talk about substance abuse. It may be useful to stipulate that for an AADFL team to receive funding, every coach must go through NYSCA's education program. Also, recreation agencies may have to better publicize clinics in which coaches are taught how to discuss such subjects.
  2. Programs that aim to raise the standards of youth programs must also educate local communities about those efforts. Although the coaches were aware, through their training, of the standards NYSCA was trying to bring to youth sports, parents of the players were not necessarily aware of them. In the program officer's view, this minimized the impact of the certification program. Possible solutions: orientation sessions that describe what is expected of NYSCA coaches and community-mandated certification for coaches in all sports.
  3. To replicate community-based programs, a master plan is required. Implementation of the AADFL varied from site to site; a master plan would have provided quality control from site to site.

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At end of the grant in 1996, NYSCA was unable to obtain funds from the NBA or any other source for new AADFL sites; it had no involvement with sites other than San Antonio, the pilot site. In Portland, Denver, and Oakland, the AADFL continued with funding from recreation agencies and the NBA teams. However, in Indianapolis, the AADFL was put on temporary hold in 1997 because of turmoil in the recreation department. NYSCA, however, is trying to continue to expand the coach-certification program by partnering with other organizations, financing expansion through membership fees, and sponsorships.

The Foundation has no plans for follow-up projects with NYSCA. However, as part of looking at what communities have available to help kids stay away from violence, crime, and substance abuse, RWJF staff are contemplating ways to help communities build on the foundation of youth sports to prevent such risky behavior.

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Program to Instruct Youth Sports Coaches in Substance Abuse Issues


National Youth Sports Coaches Association, Inc. (West Palm Beach,  FL)

  • Amount: $ 583,484
    Dates: June 1993 to May 1996
    ID#:  021206


Carol Van Reenan
(301) 791-5460

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(Current as of date of this report; as provided by grantee organization; not verified by RWJF; items not available from RWJF.)


National Youth Sports Coaches Association Staff (eds.). NYSCA What We're All About, West Palm Beach, Fla.: National Alliance for Youth Sports, 1994.

National Youth Sports Coaches Association Staff (eds.). National Standards for Youth Sports, Modifying the Sports Environment for Healthier Youth, and How to Conduct the NYSCA Education/Certification Program for All Chapters and Clinicians. West Palm Beach, Fla.: National Alliance for Youth Sports, 1994.

Carrol, Franck & Associates (eds.). All American Drug Free Youth Basketball League Coaches Fieldbook. St. Paul, Minn.: Anne Carrol, 1995.

"Louisiana-Pacific and the Trail Blazers Team Up to Form Drug Free Basketball League," in the Portland Oregonian, December 2, 1994.

Audio-Visuals and Computer Software

Basic Coaches Certification Program (120-minute videotape). West Palm Beach, Fla.: National Alliance for Youth Sports, 1994.

2nd Year Coaches Certification Program (120-minute video). West Palm Beach, Fla.: National Alliance for Youth Sports, 1994.

3rd Year Coaches Certification Program (180-minute video). West Palm Beach, Fla.: National Alliance for Youth Sports, 1994.

News Conferences

Press Conference: AADFL Coordinator Frank Martin held a press conference in Portland, Ore. on December 1, 1994, to announce the inception of the NBA Trail Blazers AADFL league.

At the AADFL program showcase at the 1996 Annual All City Basketball Tournament in Denver, Colo., a fact sheet about the League was distributed with wide press coverage.

Sponsored Conferences

"AADFL Evaluation and Planning Meeting," July 1994, San Antonio, Texas. Coordinator Frank Martin chaired the meeting, with 20 people in attendance, including the AADFL representatives from several sites.

"NYSCA National Conference," August 1994, Colorado Springs, Colo. Executive Director Mike Pfahl and his staff hosted a meeting for all 46 state directors, district coordinators and clinicians to orient them to the revised certification/education program on the new materials.

"NYSCA National Conference," August 1995, West Palm Beach, Fla. Mike Pfahl and his staff hosted a conference with 45 state directors to discuss greater implementation of the programs.

"AADFL Annual Review," August 1995, West Palm Beach, Fla. Frank Martin held an annual review meeting of all AADFL participants.

Presentations and Testimony

Mike Pfahl. "Presentation to the Armed Forces," to the chiefs of Moral, Welfare and Recreation from 110 US bases worldwide. Wright Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio, 1994. (Pfahl also traveled to Montreal and presented the program to recreation agencies there.)

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Report prepared by: Pamela Lister
Reviewed by: Marian Bass
Reviewed by: Molly McKaughan
Program Officer: Floyd Morris

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