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In sport, data is commonly used to asses and improve an athlete or team’s performance; however, the usage of membership data to inform decision-making at the National, Provincial/Territorial or club level is still relatively unexplored.

Membership data can be program or demographic information that relates to athletes, coaches or volunteers. Some sport administrators tend to make decisions based on professional experience or anecdotal evidence. Although, this type of decision-making may be effective in certain contexts, the usage of membership data can add value and increase transparency about why a decision was made. Moreover, the usage of membership data allows sport administrators to target their decisions to better address regional issues, rather than taking a one size fits all approach. For example, perhaps a National Sport Organization’s wants to invest in a new athlete development program. Should they invest their resources into all stages of the long-term athlete development framework? Or should they target one specific stage? Are the stage-specific needs the same in each province/territory?

Here are some tips to help start your membership data analysis:

1.       Decide on what to collect. Ask yourself: “what type of information will help my organization grow?”. Be careful not to over-collect. Few of us enjoy filling out lengthy online registrations. Freestyle Canada collects demographic data such as age, gender, postal code, province/territory and club. We also collect sport-specific data such as membership types (e.g., judge, official, athlete, volunteer and coach), certification types (e.g., coach, official and judge levels), athlete license types (e.g., fundamentals, learn-to-train, train-to-train, etc.), athlete discipline types, athlete skill assessments, and accident reports. Freestyle Canada also collects data through surveys, and uses data to calculate the percentage of new members, membership attrition and overall membership growth.

2.       Find the right registration system or database to suit your organization’s needs and take an inventory of existing databases currently in use (e.g., The Locker, GoalLine, Checklick, Kinduct, CS4L Progress Tracker, any sport-specific training platforms, etc.,). The system should be user-friendly, reliable, able to export .csv reports, and have good customer support in case you encounter any issues or need any product upgrades. It is a good idea to consolidate all the information collected in multiple databases quarterly in a Microsoft Excel spreadsheet. This will make it easier for you to create a year-end report.

3.       Learn how-to interpret the information. Excel’s charts, graphs and tables are easy-to-use for data analysis. Tableau is a great tool to communicate data in engaging visualizations. Both Excel and Tableau have free tutorials online.

4.       Compare your information to available sport statistics. A Google search will help you find existing literature. There are a many peer-reviewed journals and reports specific to Canadian sport (e.g., Sport Canada, CAAWS and SIRC…to name a few). Be sure to compare your information to reputable sources and do not be afraid to look beyond of sport (e.g. to business literature or other social policy areas).

5.       Write a report. Ensure your report is accurate and clearly communicates your findings in a concise manner. Best practice is to: introduce the purpose of the report; describe your methodology so that readers understand how you came to your findings; outline your results in a series of visualizations; discuss how your results compare to existing literature; and make a series of recommendations to address trends.

6.       Share your report with stakeholders and seek feedback. Do not be afraid if someone disagrees with your report. The people who operate sport programs on the field-of-play may have insider information not captured in your database. Feedback also provides an opportunity to engage in further research. Your report may have identified an issue that requires a deeper analysis through interviews or focus groups. Collecting qualitative data to support your findings will help legitimize your report, increasing its reliability and credibility to influence decision-making.

The benefit:

Membership data analysis can help sport organizations apply for grants, develop targeted initiatives, and provide a baseline measurement for future comparisons. By making informed decisions sport organizations increase their likeliness to deliver and manage successful programs. Sport administrators do not need to be data scientists and the analysis does not need to be complex. Keep it simple. Try using the tips listed above and check out the free Excel and Tableau tutorials online.

This blog was originally published May 9, 2018.

About the Author(s)

James Anderson is the Sport Operations Manager for Freestyle Canada. James manages various technologies and programs, reporting on membership data to inform Provincial/Territorial Sport Organizations and their clubs’ operations. James also volunteers as President of the Rocky Point Sailing Association and holds a Master’s of Human Kinetics from the University of Windsor.

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.