During National Coach Appreciation Week, Members of Congress, Coaches, and Youth Launch Coach for America

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New national program will recruit, train 10,000 college grads to become coaches in underserved communities.

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As a tennis player since the age of ten and a coach at both the community and professional levels, I know that coaches can play a powerful role in lives of children and youth - as mentors, advisors, authority figures, and friends

At a Capitol Hill press conference recognizing National Coach Appreciation Week today, members of Congress, coaches, and youth announced the launch of Coach for America, a first-of-its-kind national program designed to recruit 10,000 recently graduated college-athletes to participate in a year of training and service. Coach for America is a project of Up2Us, the leading national coalition focused on youth sports and development. Coach for America participants will receive sports and youth development related training and will serve, teach, and support children and youth in communities across the nation.

In its first year, Coach for America will launch in states across the nation including California, Connecticut, Colorado, Georgia, Illinois, New York, Ohio, Massachusetts, Missouri, Texas, Vermont and West Virginia. Participants will receive comprehensive training to become coaches, assistant coaches, health/nutrition leaders, camp coordinators, parent coordinators, volunteer organizers, referees, and program/event planners, and impact the lives of more than a million children and youth.

"With skyrocketing childhood obesity rates, and high school dropout rates and gang involvement on the rise, America's children and youth face challenges on many fronts," saidUp2Us executive director Paul Caccamo. "Research demonstrates that youth involvement in sports produces positive outcomes - physically, socially, educationally. Coach for America will help to ensure that communities across the nation hit hard by budget cuts can retain sports and youth development programs, and help to recruit the next generation of coaches and inspire them to lead."

Research demonstrates that children and youth who play sports are more likely to graduate from high school and college, have higher self esteem, be physically fit, and to form supportive relationships with peers and adults than those who do not. Youth who play sports are also less likely to drop out of school, join a gang, or experience teenage pregnancy.

"I know firsthand the important role coaches play in helping to instill the values of hard work and commitment in young people on and off the field," said Representative Heath Shuler (D-NC), a former NFL quarterback. "Coach Dietz, my high school football coach, has had a powerful impact on my life. During high school, he influenced me more than anyone outside my immediate family, challenging me to improve myself. When I was elected to Congress, I knew I had to surround myself with the best staff I could, and he was one of my first hires."

Co-hosted by the bipartisan Congressional Caucus on Youth Sports and Up2Us, today's press conference announces the "Play It Forward" contest, where people from across the nation can nominate their favorite coach as the Coach of the Year at http://www.Up2Us.org.

"Coach Appreciation Week is a time to recognize the contributions of coaches across the U.S. who engage youth in sports programs and serve as leaders, mentors, and role models," said Representative Mike McIntyre (D-NC), co-chair of the Congressional Caucus on Youth Sports. "It is also an opportunity to recruit new volunteers to be coaches in communities that lack sports programs and adult role models to lead them."

"As a tennis player since the age of ten and a coach at both the community and professional levels, I know that coaches can play a powerful role in lives of children and youth - as mentors, advisors, authority figures, and friends," stated Willis Thomas, Jr. program director at the Washington Tennis and Education Foundation (WTEF). "I applaud Congress for recognizing the efforts of youth coaches across the nation through Coach Appreciation Week."

About Up2Us - Up2Us is the leading national coalition that seeks to increase the impact of, and access to, youth sports as a tool for positive youth development. With more than 200 member organizations, Up2Us is focused on increasing the quality and quantity of youth sports programs, involving more children in sport-based youth development programs, and engaging more adults to work and volunteer with these programs. For more information, visit http://www.Up2Us.org.

About the Congressional Caucus on Youth Sports - The Congressional Caucus on Youth Sports was founded in 2006 and is co-chaired by Congressman Mike McIntyre (D-NC) and Congressman Jim Jordan (R-OH). The Congressional Caucus on Youth Sports works in a bipartisan fashion to promote the values of sportsmanship, civility, respect, health, safety, fun and physical activity among players and leaders, including coaches, parents and officials. The purpose of this caucus is to educate Members of Congress, the media, and the public on the need to restore a child-centered focus in youth sports that will produce immeasurable positive benefits for the well-being and character development among this nation's youth.

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