New Year’s Resolutions For Amateur Sports Leaders

By Wanda Rutledge

Each January offers us an opportunity to start the new year with a clean slate. It’s a time of resolutions and new beginnings: a time to “do better.” Quite often, the very best of intentions turn into resolutions not kept and into promises we made that are broken within the first few weeks. Studies tell us that the resolutions most likely to be kept are those that are supported by clear and concrete goals with specifically outlined steps to be taken to achieve them.

Tom Peters, a well-known writer on business management practices, and perhaps best known for his book “In Search of Excellence,” once said, “Celebrate what you want to see more of.”

In that spirit, I am proposing 12 New Year’s resolutions for the leaders of amateur youth sports programs. These resolutions are child-centered and are proposed to enhance the youth sports experience for all of the young athletes in our care, as well as for our organizations. In the coming months, I will examine some of these resolutions and provide practical tips for implementation in the printed issue of SportsEvents. Since we are listing them all this month, I will tackle the first two in greater detail in February.

  • Drink right: Choose water instead of sugar-sweetened beverages.
  • Move more: Boost movement and physical activity in all programs.
  • Snack smart: Fuel up on fruits and vegetables.
  • Screen volunteers: Protect children from predators with background checks and more.
  • Educate coaches: Provide the proper tools for your coaches to succeed.
  • Expand program: Include more women, girls, and minorities as athletes, coaches, officials, and leaders.
  • Address parental behavior: Adopt a Code of Conduct.
  • Choose safety: Identify injury prevention techniques and post-injury actions.
  • Diversify fundraising: Go beyond “can shaking” and candy sales.
  • Be a good event partner: Use your events for the mutual benefit of your athletes, your program and your host.
  • Stay current: Do not stop learning, growing, and networking with others.
  • Keep children first: Develop an athlete-centered program.

The first three resolutions relate to the recent collaborative national initiative of leading out-of-school-time organizations to combat childhood obesity by adopting unifying principles of nutrition and physical activity. The next four resolutions relate to the “others” in your programs – volunteers, coaches, parents – and how to maximize their value, while minimizing their negative impact. The next three resolutions relate to specific programmatic activity that can prove to be beneficial. The last two resolutions are personal and may influence how you react to, or interact with, all of the other resolutions.

I welcome your feedback and your suggestions. After all, the best resolutions are those that are shared with others. By discussing our intentions, and exchanging ideas, best practices, and challenges, we develop a support network of colleagues who will help us keep those resolutions all year long. Let’s get to it and find ways to follow the words of Tom Peters, “Celebrate what you want to see more of.”

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Wanda L. Rutledge, Ph.D. is Assistant Professor, Business Administration at New Jersey City University (NJCU) in Jersey City, New Jersey with more than 30 years of experience as a senior national non-profit sports management executive. An entrepreneur, sports management and sports marketing consultant, she is the former Deputy Executive Director for USA Baseball and the current Special Events Director of the National Amateur Baseball Federation. She has been president of the National Council of Youth Sports (NCYS) since 1990. Her doctoral dissertation was a baseline study about leadership in amateur sports entitled, “Who is Leading Amateur Sports in America Today and How Well Do They Practice Exemplary Leadership.” Contact Wanda at