December 9, 2010
Making the Case for Youth Sports Funding Part III by Steve Horan
As the economy continues to sputter we are seeing youth sports budgets cut or eliminated in the school and community setting. This is the third in a series on making the case for youth sports funding.
In Part 1 we recommended describing the value of youth sports in terms of positive youth development and community benefit. In Part 2 we recommended stating the specific life skill sets we aim to teach our athletes. In this article we suggest a simple framework for demonstrating the actual performance of our youth sports programs. This is important for justifying youth sports funding in the face of so many other competing priorities.
If you were asked to demonstrate that your program teaches positive life skills, could you do it?
This is an important question for all of us involved in youth sports. Many middle school, high school, and competitive club programs have a mission statement expressing an intent to teach sportsmanship, values, character, etc. This is good. But let us be candid: Very few programs could provide solid evidence that they are actually delivering on their mission. Most of us could relate authentic anecdotes about the good things we try to teach. But very few of us could quickly demonstrate that we pro-actively and systematically promote positive youth development through our programs.
We need an efficient strategy for demonstrating the value of our programs. We suggest that any youth sports program can reasonably demonstrate its performance by documenting seven indicators of its commitment and action.
1. Mission. The program has a mission statement which includes positive youth development and which is distributed to all athletes, parents, and coaches.
2. Learning Objectives. The program has a set of specific life skill learning objectives for participating athletes.
3. Proactive Coaching. The coaches proactively teach positive life skills to participating athletes in meetings, in practice, and in competition.
4. Coach Support. The program provides policy support, education, and materials to help coaches instruct their athletes in positive life skills.
5. Parent Engagement. The program proactively engages parents as partners in promoting positive youth development by distributing educational materials and presenting opportunities for parent education.
6. Community Engagement. The program proactively engages its community of spectators in promoting positive youth development by setting and enforcing rules for sportsmanship before, during, and after competition.
7. Athlete Evaluation. The coaches evaluate the athletes on their achievement of selected life skill objectives. The athletes also evaluate their own attainment of life skill objectives and their experience in receiving life skill instruction through the program.
Of the seven indicators, #7 (Athlete Evaluation) may appear to be the most daunting. This need not be so. Keep in mind that most coaches do informally evaluate their athletes on key life skill dimensions such as positive character, self direction, teamwork, and leadership. This need only be formalized with a simple rating tool and a mid-season or end-of-season conversation with each athlete. Likewise, middle- and high-school age athletes are quite capable of completing self-assessments and delivering honest feedback on the life skill instruction they received.
The deeper challenge is likely to be persuading coaches to invest in defining the positive life skills they aim to teach - and in being accountable for teaching them. There is always going to be some resistance to the prospect of actually demonstrating performance. But his is where we find out who we are as youth sports leaders. Will we give in to the fear of being accountable to our own mission? Or will we be as courageous as our athletes and push ourselves to the next level of performance? If you are ready to begin demonstrating the performance of your program, we developed The Positive Youth Sports Model and its seven life skill sets as one option for getting started. But every program can certainly develop its own mission and objectives, and we encourage you to do what makes good sense for your athletes. Thank you for promoting positive youth development through sports!
Check back next week for another great Coaching Article.