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SIRC is pleased to be working together with Sport Canada to share current research on topics informing policy and promoting quality sport programming. This week we are sharing highlights of a recent article examining COACHES’ PERSPECTIVES ON AN ONLINE TOOL TO PROMOTE POSITIVE YOUTH DEVELOPMENT IN SPORT.

Project SCORE! Coaches’ perceptions of an online tool to promote positive youth development in sport. Strachan, Leisha; MacDonald, Dany J.; Côté, Jean. (2016). International Journal of Sports Science & Coaching, 11(1), 108-115.

(Research supported by the Sport Participation Research Initiative (SPRI))

SIRC Highlights from the research

Sport has long been promoted as an effective avenue for building positive psychological and social characteristics and skills for youth. Coaches (after parents) have been identified as a main contributor to teaching these skills to youth within the sport context. However, the methods to teach positive youth development (PYD) themes has been highlighted as an area requiring further education and training for coaches. This research evaluated the use of an online program (Project SCORE!) by coaches to help them integrate PYD themes into their coaching practice. As a pilot study, four competitive youth coaches completed the program and were interviewed to gain insights into their perception of program effectiveness identifying highlights and challenges in delivering the program. Project SCORE! is built on 10 lessons for head coaches or assistant coaches to deliver during practice times over the course of a season focusing on Lerner’s five C’s (competence, connection, character, confidence, and caring/compassion) of youth development. The program is designed for 11-17 year olds.

Analysis of the coach interviews revealed four main themes: (1) program organization; (2) positive aspects of the program; (3) challenges of the program; and (4) suggestions for changes.

  1. Program organization:
    • Preparation: In general, the preparation time need for each lesson was minimal
    • Delivery: General observations were that one lesson was too long and the parent connection activity didn’t meet the needs of the coach​
  2. Positives of the Program:​
    • Website: The online resource was well organized and easy to navigate, and the information provided was good.
    • Lessons/Sessions: ‘Your Turn’ session was particularly received well by the athletes in that it gave them the opportunity to run the lesson. This sense of empowerment increased athlete enjoyment. Other sessions that worked well were ‘Team Connection’, ‘Building Character – Respect’, ‘Building Competence – Training the Mind’, and ‘Building Competence – Goal Setting’.
    • Personal Growth: While the sessions were aimed at the athletes, coaches felt that they also learned about themselves and experienced personal growth as a coach. The lessons also helped them form better connections with their athletes.
    • Parent Reaction: Coaches felt that parents were very positive and supportive of the lessons and saw growth and development in the athletes.​
  3. Challenges:​
    • Participant Involvement: Coaches experienced some difficulties getting athletes engaged in the lessons.
    • Time Away from Training: Coaches indicated that while the material and lessons were valuable, they were concerned that it took time away from practice (skill development)​
  4. Suggestions for Change:
    • More flexibility in the order of the lessons, so as to be able to mix and match lessons with the needs of the athletes or the team
    • Some concepts might be too abstract for all levels of athletes and might not be cognitively appropriate for younger athletes. However, while the program was geared for 11-17 year olds, coaches pointed out that some lessons, if modified/simplified, would be beneficial for younger athletes.

General Observations:

Overall the program proved to be a positive experience with coaches finding the lessons easy to use and implement. Coaches saw growth in both players with the added benefit to the coaches’ personal growth as well. The online resource proved to be both cost and resource-effective showing it’s applicability to any community coach. The self-learning method meant that the coach education would not have to be dependent on instructor, time or equipment/facility factors. The study also showed that PYD skills could be learned and integrated by coaches in a relatively quick manner, and the user-friendly nature of an online program may in fact encourage more use of the program and its resources.

Coaches were not limited to the resources presented by the program and some did integrate their own resources into the sessions. More experienced coaches found that they were able to incorporate their own resources with more purpose with the guidance of the program lessons and felt more confidence using previously learned techniques. Challenges found in the program were focused not on the program implementation but rather on changing individual perceptions around teaching PYD skills as a part of youth sport. Some athletes were not as focused on PYD skills and some coaches felt it took away from sport-specific practice time, suggesting that more attention needs to be paid to clarifying how increasing PYD skills enhances athlete performance, to both the coach and the athletes.

Future research should focus on increasing the study size as well as the levels of coaches. This study also did not measure the youth experience of the program which would also lead to a better understanding of how athletes receive the PYD sessions. The study concluded that Project SCORE! appeared to be an appropriate tool to help coaches deliver positive youth development learning to their athletes, with positive impacts extending to coach personal development as well.

The information presented in SIRC blogs and SIRCuit articles is accurate and reliable as of the date of publication. Developments that occur after the date of publication may impact the current accuracy of the information presented in a previously published blog or article.