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  • Peter Miller

SGG #89: Karissa Niehoff: Champion for education-based opportunities in youth sports


We continue our special SGG series on youth sports. The youth sports environment includes both in and out-of-school sports -- and this episode addresses critical issues in both.

Karissa Niehoff is the executive director of the National Federation of High School Associations. She is a key national leader in promoting robust education-based sports and activities. Karissa is a former athlete, teacher, and coach – with tremendous insights to share. In this SGG episode, we discussed:

1. The people who influenced her development: parents, coaches, and teachers.

2. Memories of her Latin teacher: “He was consistent. He was encouraging in his own way. And he just had a way of making you want to do well.”

3. Her central task at NFHS: “Being a champion for education-based activities.”

4. Education-based activities as “the second half of the school day” and an “intentional environment where many adults are supportive of the experience.”

5. Concerns in the broader youth sports environment, including early specialization and under-trained coaching.

6. Examples of how youth sport involvement can be described and taught in age-appropriate ways.

7. Lessons learned during Covid times, including remaining nimble and the loss that can occur when sports and activities are removed.

8. The resilience and creativity of coaches and teachers. “Our school professionals really are the heroes of the year.”

9. The new era of sports streaming online. What the NFHS offers and possibilities for the future.

10. The NFHS Network operating in 46 states. Almost 20,000 high schools around the country. 2 free cameras for each school. Hundreds of thousands of events streamed each year – boys and girls, all sports, diverse activities.

11. Concerns associated with the network.

12. Words of advice for developing coaches: “Remember why we’re there. Remember why the kids are there…Remember that our kids are individuals…Remember that everything can be done with a positive spin. Every single thing can be done positively.”