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Youth sports expo helps educate coaches, players and parents

Staff Photo: John Bohn Attendees visit sponsor booths as Gwinnett County Parks and Recreation hosts the 2012 Youth Sports Expo on Saturday at Rhodes Jordan Park in Lawrenceville.

Staff Photo: John Bohn Attendees visit sponsor booths as Gwinnett County Parks and Recreation hosts the 2012 Youth Sports Expo on Saturday at Rhodes Jordan Park in Lawrenceville.

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Staff Photo: John Bohn Laura Young, left, and Helene Buchanan, right, of i9Sports work a booth as Gwinnett County Parks and Recreation hosts the 2012 Youth Sports Expo on Saturday at Rhodes Jordan Park in Lawrenceville.

LAWRENCEVILLE -- Rhodes Jordan Park was filled with all-things sports related on Saturday morning because Gwinnett County Parks and Recreation was hosting the state's largest youth sports expo. Vendors and companies were on scene with product demonstrations, giveaways and a silent auction.

"We wanted to host this event because of the way we organize our programs, it is in partnership with each association," said Gary Schussler, Gwinnett County athletic coordinator. "This is more or less an arm to help educate the parents and the organizations that offer programs to the kids. It's a good opportunity to bring in speakers who we work with."

During the day, several speakers took the podium, including Kat Ding, a NCAA champion gymnast at the University of Georgia and a spokesperson for the Gwinnett Sports Commission, who spoke about the significance of participating in youth sports.

Some of the other topics covered were risk management for youth sports organizations, how to recognize, prevent and treat heat-related injuries, background checks and soil management.

According to Schussler, the day's most important educational session was "recognizing and reporting child abuse," which explained Georgia's new mandate, HB1176.

"Knowing that we've had changes in legislation, it's nice to really put it in the forefront and say, 'Hey guys, this is important. This is something that is going to affect you,'" Schussler said. "We've got to work together to make sure we're successful and that they are following the rules that are put in place."

Not only should coaches, board members or officials report this type of sexual and physical abuse, but under the new Mandated Reporting Statute, volunteers, parents and anyone else working with children need to report the abuse immediately.

"They need to know about this because it affects everyone," Schussler said.