By By Sara E. Martin, Army Flier Staff WriterJanuary 9, 2014
FORT RUCKER, Ala. (January 9, 2014) -- For more than a decade, the Excellence in Youth Sports Awards have honored programs that are doing superior jobs of conducting diverse activities with a focus on providing safe and positive experiences for children, parents and coaches, and Fort Rucker youth sports has been selected as one of the five winners of 2013.
Each year hundreds of youth sports programs from across the county and military bases worldwide vie to be an award winner, and the staff of youth sports and fitness is "tickled pink" that they have been nationally recognized as the best the Army can provide, said Vernon Vawter, child, youth and school services sports maintenance.
"For a post as small as we are to do this is fantastic for us," he said. "We have a product here that is No. 1, and now everyone will know."
The sports program has always tried to do everything it can to provide the best services to its patrons, and here is proof that they are the top, said Randy Tolison, youth sports and fitness director.
"We wanted to be the best of the best for our community. The award has been overwhelming. We are so proud because we have all worked so hard for this," he said.
The team was given the award in November, which included a trophy, a monetary award and all the bragging rights that comes with being No. 1.
"I think it was our teamwork and commitment that really made us stand out," said Jackie Johnson, CYSS youth sports clinician and program associate.
David Helmuth, CYSS youth sports maintenance, said it was making sure everyone involved has a good experience and ensuring participants have fun.
"It would be all for nothing if people didn't enjoy themselves and did not come back," he said. "When service members come in with Families we want them to see all the possibilities of living here."
The team said they all experienced different emotions when they were told that they had won. Shouts of "hallelujah" were said to be heard, as well as claims of the moment being better than their team winning the Super Bowl.
The program was developed by the National Alliance for Youth Sports and "Athletic Business Magazine," said Tolison, adding that this was an award well deserved.
Applicants are judged on several criteria, he said, including: what the organization does to educate their administrators, volunteer coaches, game officials and parents, in addition to how well they demonstrate that they embrace a child-centered recreational sports philosophy that is aimed at providing a positive and safe experience for all youth.
Out of the 28 finalists, Fort Rucker stood out above the rest and Tolison thinks that it was parents of the program's youth that helped the team secure the title.
"One of the biggest things that they look at is the surveys that parents complete," he said. "We do not get to look at the surveys, they go straight to NAYS. Eventually, they let us know what the responses were, and they were very favorable. So, I thank the community for that."
The award is open to all organizations that partner itself with NAYS, so national, international, civilian and military clubs were a part of the competition.
"We didn't win this award because we have a new facility," said Tolison. "The award is an ongoing process and this facility is less than a year old, and last year before the new facility opened we won honorable mention."
Tolison said that the new facility was not even mentioned in Fort Rucker's application packet, and that the team made use of what they had to succeed.
"We have grown from a program that was a little stagnant and somewhat satisfied with just being OK to becoming the best in the Army," he said. "It took a little time, but I believe we have made great improvements, but there is always work still to be done."
Once word gets out to parents that there are a number of quality programs in their own backyard, Tolison thinks they will want to see what CYSS has to offer.
"That will benefit the installation as a whole because it will keep our Family members here, instead of competing against Fort Rucker in sports such as football and basketball," he added.
The youth sports and fitness program plans to stay on top, and a surprise is in store to help sustain its level of excellence.
New programs are going to be initiated this summer, but the team is keeping them shrouded for the excitement of its participants. But the "top secret" activity is said to be revealed soon and that parents and teens are sure to love the addition.