In the fall of 2002, the Minnesota Amateur Sports Commission started a sportsmanship initiative for Minnesota youth sport organizations. Coincidentally, at the same time, the Board of Directors of the Minnesota State High School League created a similar sportsmanship project. Both groups recognized the need to work in this area – particularly due to the negative impact poor sportsmanship was having on the recruiting and retention of both officials and coaches.
These two initiatives were combined into one, with the first meeting at the National Sports Center, in October of 2002. Those attending this first meeting included individuals representing the MASC, the MSHSL, Minnesota Youth Athletic Services, Minnesota Hockey, Minnesota Youth Soccer Association, the Minnesota Sports Federation, North Country Region USA Volleyball, USA Football, Hennepin County Health Department, Tobacco Free Youth Recreation, Minnesota Recreation and Parks Administration, and others.
The initial intent was to set up series of workshops dealing with sportsmanship issues that would be conducted throughout the state of Minnesota. Those attending quickly agreed that if there were to be an initiative in this area, it needed to be an on-going, long range effort to change the culture of youth sports, as opposed to a more short-termed “special emphasis.”
Regular meetings were held throughout the following year. These meetings led to the unanimous conclusion that an organization of the key youth sports groups in the state should be formed. In 2004, the group conducted a sportsmanship survey to validate the sportsmanship problem. Almost 1,600 coaches, officials and parents responded to the survey and overwhelmingly identified sportsmanship as a critical issue. This survey and the group’s other efforts confirmed the need for creating and sustaining a more positive youth sports environment. In the summer of 2004, several work groups formed to tackle specific projects. As a result, in September of 2004, the SAM agreed on a set of principals and standards that would guide the organization; and decisions were made to incorporate and become a 501 (c) (3) organization. A constitution was written, bylaws were developed and an initial Board of Directors was formed – meeting for the first time in November of 2004. Board meetings continued through the winter and spring of 2005.
In the summer of 2005, the Founding Members of the Sports Alliance of Minnesota officially committed to a Summit for Youth Sport Leaders at the National Sports Center on Saturday, October 29th. Each founding member organization has the opportunity to have a member on the Board of Directors. A web site with a “virtual” tool kit of resources for those providing leadership in youth sports was launched in September of 2005. A Sports University to offer training to those directly working with youth is being planned for the spring of 2006.
The organizations and individuals who have been involved believe in the vision and mission of SAM and are passionate about bringing a consistent message to all youth sports leaders and participants throughout the state of Minnesota.