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  • Napa Valley Marketplace Magazine

Youth Sports Validity Seal



By Kathleen Reynolds


Napan Daniel Eaton got the spark of an idea for a youth sports oversight committee when he was sent out of town to officiate a youth baseball travel tournament.


“When I arrived, the field was muddy, almost flooded, and I didn’t think it was safe,” says Daniel, who is an assistant baseball coach at Napa High School. “After the game began, it became obvious that rules didn’t matter, and the team was playing against members of their own team. Parents were enthusiastic about seeing their kids play, not realizing that it wasn’t a legitimate tournament.”


“I kept thinking that these parents don’t know and had paid a lot of money to witness what was essentially team practice.”


That’s when he realized that there should be more accountability, a group that would audit leagues and tournaments to guide children and their parents to reputable leagues and tournaments.


“This body would make sure that leagues could certify or authenticate the coach. After review they would receive a Certificate or ‘Validity Seal’ stating obligations were met.”


In addition, tournaments will consist of viable and reputable staff and coaches. These obligations are necessary because the motivation for monetary gains can outweigh the incentives for high quality coaching. 


To fulfill his dream of creating an overarching body to supervise youth leagues, Daniel started a foundation.


“It’s the Sue E. Cooley Foundation, named after my grandmother, and its first venture is what we call the Sports Validation Project.”


The Sports Validation Project Mission: “Our paramount objective is to steadfastly uphold the principles of integrity and sportsmanship. We shall diligently oversee, and/or implement, the administrative body of youth sporting organizations (leagues). Our primary emphasis lies in preserving the fundamental principles and ethical standards that underpin sportsmanship and fair competition among young athletes, while simultaneously fostering a comprehensive understanding of the game. Concurrently, we aim to advocate for and establish a well-organized framework within all youth sports, ensuring the safeguarding of athletes, coaches, parents, and the future sustainability of youth sports. Our dedication will be to establish a level playing field where fairness and meritocracy prevail, ensuring that decisions and actions are driven solely by the best interests of the athletes and the integrity of all sports. Fundamentally sound coaching is a key value we do not take for granted, as it is essential to successful growth in all aspects of game development.”


“In this journey, I’ve always been a stickler for rules and mechanics,” Daniel says. “I believe in creating a framework within youth sports that ensures the safeguarding of athletes, coaches, parents, and the very future of youth sports itself. What is the overarching goal? To ensure that leagues aren’t just fleeting ‘get-rich-quick’ schemes but are institutions that genuinely care about the holistic development of our young athletes.”


The Sue E. Cooley Foundation got a boost recently with the addition of a new team member, Hailey Breakwell. She is the owner Hailey Breakwell Performance, giving private lessons and running clinics and team workouts. 


Hailey was a 4-year Starter at Idaho State University softball team and helped lead the Bengals to three back-to-back conference championships, taking home conference player of the year in 2014. After graduation, she played for the New Zealand National Team and continued coaching at the Division 1 level for Wichita State and Saint Francis University, earning NCAA regional berths at both schools. She graduated with a master’s degree in Sport Management from Wichita State in 2018. She also continued playing for her home country, New Zealand (she has dual citizenship), through the 2020 Olympic Trials.


“I grew up playing multiple sports,” says Hailey. “I played baseball until I was 13, then switched to softball. I believe in the Youth Sports Validity project because the games and tournaments should be run the right way. Currently, it’s a free-for-all, with no sanctions.”


“Travel ball is big business, but it’s not always about the kids. Parents are paying a lot of money without knowing things like the quality of coaches, the field conditions or even if there’s enough staff on the field crew. There should be some way to be held accountable.”


“This is not just an issue in Napa, but nationally. Since we’re just getting off the ground, we’re starting with Napa, where Daniel and I were both raised.”


Daniel agrees. “We’ll measure our success by our membership,” he says. “I’m reaching out now to leagues in Napa and American Canyon. We’re just getting started and became a certified non-profit. We have bylaws and our advisory Board Chair is Mustafa A. Hersi, J.D., who has spent more than 15 years in government and private practice, including with the U.S. Department of Justice. He doesn’t operate as an attorney or employee of our enterprise but has been a huge part of why we’ve made it this far.”


According to its Facebook page, “(The) Youth Sports Validity Project promises to aid leagues in growth and gaining traction and validity. Despite what it may seem, we need not nor want to hinder their progress. Our approval of a league cannot be bought, it is a privilege. It can be earned, even after a failed attempt, through our guidance. We strive to enhance information access for athletes and parents, providing details on league and tournament schedules, hotel cost and fuel costs.”


“In our future, we hope to hold coaches’ training with the fundamentals that they need to know. I want everyone to know we’re not trying to cut leagues; we want them to grow. We’re providing a platform that makes them more legitimate and transparent.”


“Join us in our quest for clarity and excellence in youth sports for a brighter, honest, and skilled tomorrow. The Sue E. Cooley Foundation and the Youth Sports Validity Project - advocating for the heart and soul of the game.”


For more information, visit youthsportsvalidity.org; their Facebook page, Sue4TheYouth; Linkedin.com/company/youthsportsvalidity; phone 707-387-0987 or email Daniel at deaton@youthsportsvalidity.org.


The Obligations:


• Make available the finances of the leagues (the money that family, fans, etc. will spend on travel).


• Observe that the fields or facilities are maintained properly. 


• Ensure safety equipment and team equipment is not broken and is properly dispensed.  


• Have coaches’ certifications, classes, background checks accessible to the public and, especially, the patrons. 


• Hold Board and/or governing body meetings with adequate notification given to members so they know the location and time of the meeting.


• Have an equal and non-biased accountability structure.

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