Use double quotes to find documents that include the exact phrase: "aerodynamic AND testing"

Safety huddles bring together both teams before the start of a game for coaches to discuss the importance of speaking up if a concussion is suspected. A study with youth soccer teams found that safety huddles increased the likelihood of athletes reporting concussion symptoms. This may be a promising low-resource option to improve concussion safety for sport organizations.

Most Canadians know that being physically active is important for overall health. But did you know that physical activity may be particularly important for young people diagnosed with cancer?

Children, adolescents, and young adults diagnosed with cancer experience many negative effects, like fatigue and pain, and are at greater risk for chronic health conditions and early mortality (Armenian et coll., 2020; Chao et coll., 2020; Hallquist Viale, 2016; Phillips et coll., 2015). Researchers have found that physical activity is a safe way to decrease some of the negative effects young people diagnosed with cancer experience.

Physical activity can also improve physical fitness (for example, strength and flexibility) and mental health (for example, feelings of anxiety or stress; Beulertz et coll., 2016; Kim et Park, 2019; Munsie et coll., 2022; Rabin et coll., 2016). There is also evidence to suggest that physical activity might help young people diagnosed with cancer think and remember better (Riggs et coll., 2017; Wurz, Ayson, et coll., 2021). This evidence has been summarized in reviews (Munsie et coll., 2019; Wurz, McLaughlin, Lategan, Ellis, et coll., 2021), which collectively suggest that it is time for young people diagnosed with cancer to “move more.”

Unfortunately, starting or increasing physical activity is challenging, even without a cancer diagnosis. We know that many young people diagnosed with cancer are not active enough to receive health benefits (Götte et coll., 2022; Rabin, 2011).

Below, we outline steps that exercise professionals, physical activity programmers, or coaches can take to support physical activity among young people diagnosed with cancer.

1) Prioritize safety

It is always important to ensure your participant is ready to start or maintain physical activity. You may be aware of helpful screening tools, like the Get Active Questionnaire. However, when working with young people diagnosed with cancer, it is important do further screening. Even if you have qualifications to screen for participation in physical activity, we recommend collecting additional information covering treatment, other medical issues, current symptoms that could impact physical activity or exercise, and physical restrictions (Wurz, McLaughlin, Lategan, Chamorro Viña, et coll., 2021). If feasible, we also suggest you try connecting with your participant’s healthcare team to gain further information and confirmation of readiness to engage in exercise (Wurz, McLaughlin, Lategan, Chamorro Viña, et coll., 2021). From there, you can continue prioritizing safety by following the tips below:

Start low and progress slow. This means going back to basics and choosing activities that are easy for your participant to complete. Choose modified versions of exercises, see how they feel and then build up difficulty over time. For example, if you are working on lower body strength with a young adult, you could have them start with a seated leg extension. If that is feeling okay, you could then have them progress to a sit to stand. From there they could try a body weight squat. It is important to meet the participant where they are at, and only progress as they feel comfortable.

Check-in during physical activity. Ask your participant to reflect on how hard they are working. We like using a Rating of Perceived Exertion/Effort (RPE) scale ranging from 0 (no effort) to 10 (the hardest exercise you could imagine or have experienced). Another easy way to check-in on intensity is by using the Talk Test. These tools can be helpful to ensure you start low and progress slow.

Set up for safety. Many young people diagnosed with cancer experience trouble with balance and peripheral neuropathy (weakness, numbness, pain in the hands and feet). Make sure you clear some space, keep equipment off to the side, and consider appropriate footwear. It can also be helpful to have a chair or wall nearby for additional support that they can use for certain exercises or to hold on to for balance.

Des enfants d'origines diverses jouent avec des hula hoops2) Make it fun

As exercise professionals, physical activity programmers, or coaches you might be focused on the exercise prescription specifics, but we know that making it fun is important, especially for young people. You can increase the fun factor by asking what physical activity your participant already likes to do, re-naming exercises using favourite books or movies as an inspiration or coming up with themed workouts.

For example, if you have a participant who loves animals and the zoo, you could create an animal themed workout where you and the child act out various animals (for example, standing like a flamingo to work on balance, flapping bird wings to open through the chest). You can also switch things up and try new activities or try integrating elements of (or practicing) your participant’s favourite sport. Researchers have found that sport-based interventions can improve quality of life and fatigue among young people affected by cancer (Götte et coll., 2014).

3) Make it a family (and friends) affair

Moving with family and friends is also a great way to up the fun factor, and it can provide additional support to help young people get their physical activity minutes in. Parents are often key physical activity supporters, so including them in the session can be a useful strategy for exercise professionals or coaches. Many young people may also have siblings. Consider offering sibling sessions, which may help ease the burden for parents to fit in everyone’s extracurricular activities. Or, you may consider having your participant invite their friends to try new activities or sports with them. Including family and friends can help improve feelings of confidence for physical activity, which can help support long-term physical activity behaviour (Gilliam et coll., 2012).

If you are feeling ready to help young people diagnosed with cancer start or maintain physical activity, here are some additional, evidence-based resources that may be of interest to you.

Recommended resources

We hope you will use these resources in your efforts to help more young people diagnosed with cancer “move more” to receive the benefits physical activity can offer. If you want to learn more about any of this information or the resources listed, please contact us at

The Canadian Disability Participation Project (CDPP) is a cross-sector network of partners working together to enhance community participation among Canadians with disabilities. Since 2014, the CDPP sport and exercise team has created over 100 resources, including the “Blueprint for Building Quality Participation in Sport for Children, Youth and Adults with a Disability,” and the “Blueprint for Building Quality Participation in Sport for Children and Youth with Intellectual Disabilities.”

Parents play an important role in creating positive sports experiences for their children. Through interviews with athletes, researchers have learnt what behaviours children look for from their parents at competitions. Preferred behaviours included having parents show respect to others in sport, focus on their child’s effort rather than outcomes, and provide positive yet realistic post-competition feedback.


Quality sport. Values-based sport. Safe sport. Positive youth development. Person-centred sport. Athlete-centred sport. Holistic approaches.   

These are just a few of the many terms used within the sport sector to discuss the different ways in which sport delivery, programs, and culture are approached. Whether you are new to working in sport or an experienced staff member, participant, or even sport parent, it’s not uncommon to hear these terms used and feel a sense of confusion. What do they mean? Why are they important? And most importantly, how can you implement them? 

In this article, we explore 3 approaches to sport program delivery that sport researchers and practitioners alike recommend for their potential to optimize the sport experience: Quality sport, values-based sport and safe sport. We define these approaches, what the evidence says about them, and map out how they are similar or different from one another other. 

Quality sport  

Within academic literature, a quality approach to sport participation means ensuring participants view their experiences as enjoyable and satisfying based on their own preferences and values (Evans et coll., 2018). More specifically, researchers define quality participation in sport as repeated exposure to positive experiences, programming, or environments that promote long-term athlete development and participation (Côté et coll., 2014, Yohalem & Wilson-Ahlstrom, 2010). 

There is evidence to suggest when an individual’s needs are satisfied and participants are enjoying their sport experiences, they are considerably more likely to continue to participate in sport (Caron et coll., 2019; Ryan & Deci, 2017). With repeated exposure to positive experiences, they will also be more likely to reap the physical, social, and mental benefits of sport participation (Caron et coll., 2019; Martin Ginis et coll., 2017). This means that prioritizing the quality of programming is important for long-term participation and healthy development 

Figure 1: Sport for Life Society LTD Framework

It is important to acknowledge that organizations apply these definitions in their own way or use slightly different language to express their specific quality sport goals. For instance, Sport for Life uses “quality sport” and promotes the Long-Term Development in Sport and Physical Activity (LTD) framework as a guide for achieving positive experiences in sport and physical activity for individuals over the lifespan. According to Sport for Life, quality sport “is developmentally appropriate, safe and inclusive, and well run.” In other words, quality sport is “good programs, led by good people, in good places.”  

On the other hand, the Canadian Disability Participation Project (CDPP) promotes “quality participation” in sport and physical activity for people with disabilities. According to the CDPP, “quality participation is achieved when athletes with a disability view their involvement in sport as satisfying and enjoyable, and experience outcomes that they consider important.” To achieve quality participation, participants need repeated and sustained exposure to “quality experiences” over time. Six elements contribute to a quality experience (Martin Ginis et coll., 2017):  

To support these elements, appropriate conditions in the physical (for example, accessible facilities, access to equipment), social (for example, coach or instructor knowledge, friendships, family support), and program (for example, program size, funding support) environments need to be in place (Evans et coll., 2018). While the CDPP’s framework was developed for people with disabilities, it can be applied to sport participants in all contexts. 

Figure 2: The CDPP’s blueprint for building quality participation in sport and physical activity.

A variety of practical tools and resources have been created to guide sport organizations and program leaders in fostering quality sport programs. For example, Sport for Life creating a Quality Sport Checklist and a Quality Sport Guide for communities and clubs. Alternatively, the CDPP created the Blueprint for Building Quality Participation in Sport as a tool to help sport programmers foster quality experiences for children, youth and adults with disabilities, which leads to quality participation over time. The Blueprint has also been tailored for children and youth with intellectual disabilities and Autism Spectrum Disorder. Ultimately, creating quality sport experiences involves understanding your programs and athletes unique needs to help identify what values and program components you should focus on and prioritize. 

Values-based sport  

The aim of sport delivery that is values-based is to create an environment that encourages values like (but not exclusive to) good character, physical literacy, community and belonging. Another goal of values-based sport is to create good citizens and well-rounded individuals through sport. However, this approach to sport delivery is more explicit in its use of values and morals to achieve its goal when compared to the other approaches described in this article.  

Adopting and promoting values in Canadian sport has been advocated by communities and organizations like Collaborative Community Coaching (C3)™, the Sport Law & Strategy Group, the Canadian Centre for Ethics in Sport (CCES), and True Sport. 

Of particular note, the CCES is an independent, national, not-for-profit organization committed to making sport better. The CCES does so by working collaboratively to activate a values-based sport system, protecting the integrity of sport from the negative forces of doping and other unethical threats, and advocating for sport that’s fair, safe and open to everyone. True Sport is an initiative of the CCES designed to give people, communities and organizations the means to leverage the benefits of good sport from a platform of shared values and principles. As a values-based sport network leader, the CCES believes that activating the True Sport Principles, on and off the field of play, will contribute to a positive shift in Canadian sport culture.  

Figure 3: The 7 True Sport Principles

Values-based approaches operate on the belief that sport has many physical, social and mental benefits but these benefits are not guaranteed by simply participating in sport (Bean et coll., 2018). The 2022 True Sport Report, commissioned by the CCES, recommends that in order for sport to be “good sport,” values and principles need to be put into action (for example, incorporated into policy, practice, and programs) and work together at all times. Informed by recent research, the report suggests that when this occurs, participants and communities alike will benefit.  

Despite being advocated for and implemented in organizations for many years, values-based approaches have not yet been investigated extensively in the academic literature. Nevertheless, the goal remains similar to previous approaches discussed—that is, meeting the basic human and developmental needs of participants.  

While researchers are still investigating whether the explicit teaching of values is necessary for participants to acquire them (as opposed to them being obtained organically from “good sport”), the morals and principles promoted through values-based sport are universally positive (Bean et coll., 2018).  

The key characteristic of values-based approaches to sport programming is that they are intentional and clear with the values and purpose of the activities participants are taking part in. According to Jones and McLenaghen, a good starting point for an organization or club looking to take this approach is to develop a “values-based agreement.” In other words, come together and agree upon your organization’s values and principles and promote them throughout your programming. Part of the CCES values-based education programming also includes a values-based agreement as an essential step in guiding and clarifying your community’s purpose for athletes, coaches and leaders, and meeting the goal of fostering values through your programming.  

The CCES provides additional suggestions for those wanting to make a positive difference in their sport and community:  

Safe sport  

The safe sport movement aims to optimize the sport experience for everyone in sport, including but not limited to administrators, officials, and support staff. To optimize the experience, stakeholders should have the reasonable expectation that the sport environment will not only be free from all forms of maltreatment (for example, abuse, neglect, bullying, harassment, and discrimination), but that it will also: 

Safe sport extends beyond the prevention of physical, psychological and social harm to include the promotion of participant rights (Gurgis & Kerr, 2021). According to Gretchen Kerr, an academic expert and a leader in the safe sport movement, the safe sport movement does not intend to abandon athletic results altogether, but rather places emphasis on healthy, safe, and inclusive methods for achieving performance results.   

As testimonies continue to surface of discrimination, harassment, abuse, and other forms of maltreatment in sport, the body of literature focused on safe sport and safeguarding in sport has grown substantially. In particular, recent studies have demonstrated how unsafe sport environments and maltreatment are contributing to participants’ mental health concerns and withdrawal from sport (Battaglia et coll., 2022).   

For example, in a recent SIRCuit article, a team of researchers (Eric MacIntosh, Alison Doherty and Shannon Kerr) described the findings of a study exploring athletes’ perceptions of safe and unsafe environments in high performance sport. The researchers identified coach and teammate behaviour (like aggression, exclusion, and overstepping boundaries), as well as a lack of resources and inattentive sport system (meaning, lack of accountability, attention, and/or action) as primary contributors to unsafe sporting environments. In contrast, athletes shared that they felt safest when they had a knowledgeable coach, athlete interests were prioritized, regulations were followed, they had access to ancillary support (like, physiotherapy and counselling), and when there was a sense of community among athletes and coaches.  

According to experts, adopting a values-based framework where inclusion, safety, fairness, and accessibility are promoted alongside strategies to prevent harm and abuse appears critical to optimizing  the experiences of sport participants (Gurgis, 2021). With safe sport in mind, Donnelly and Kerr (2018) recommend that sport organizations engage in the following strategies: 

The Universal Code of Conduct to Prevent and Address Maltreatment in Sport (UCCMS) was developed in 2019 by the CCES with SIRC and in collaboration with national and multi-sport organizations, athletes, coaches, researchers and experts in the areas of child protection and safety in sport. The UCCMS 6.0 underwent a recent update by the SDRCC and is a vital tool for communities and organizations when it comes to implementing safe sport practices. The latest version includes prevention strategies for all levels of Canadian sport organizations and guidelines on how to address maltreatment if it occurs.  

UCCMS violations are investigated and sanctioned by the Office of the Sport Integrity Commissioner (OSIC). The OSIC is the central hub within Abuse-Free Sport, Canada’s independent system for preventing and addressing maltreatment in sport. The Sport Dispute Resolution Centre of Canada (SDRCC) launched the Abuse-Free Sport program in 2022 after extensive research and a national consultation with more than 75 different organizations. The government of Canada selected the SDRCC to develop and deliver this new safe sport mechanism at the national level in 2021.  

Abuse-Free Sport provides access to a wide range of resources, all of it available in English and French, including: 

You can visit SIRC’s safe sport web hub for more safe sport resources, including policy documents and relevant research. For safe sport education and training, the Coaching Association of Canada offers Safe Sport Training, a free online training module. The Respect Group also offers Respect in Sport Training targeted at coaches and program leaders, as well as parents.  


There are several evidence-informed approaches to sport delivery that researchers and sport organizations encourage, and that you can engage with, to promote positive experiences and combat harmful cultures in sport and society. Quality sport, values-based sport and safe sport are 3 common approaches promoted by sport researchers and practitioners to optimizes experiences and outcomes for sport participants. Although they have their differences, each of these approaches recognizes sport as a context for communities and participants to gain valuable benefits. These approaches promote morals and principles that aim to fulfill basic human needs like belonging, safety, and confidence, which encourage healthy development and overall wellbeing for all sport participants. At the end of the day, the goal of each approach is to encourage positive sport experiences that build thriving people and communities.  


“I don’t coach a sport, I coach life.” – Dane Baugh, Coordinator of Sport Programming, MLSE LaunchPad

Can all sports be considered Sport For Development opportunities?  

Sport For Development (SFD) is the intentional use of sport and physical activity to build healthy communities and help people reach their full potential, often through the integration of sport with positive development approaches to enhance overall effectiveness. In a grassroots youth context, SFD is as much about providing a supportive environment where youth can develop as people, as it is a place to train and compete.

The evaluation report on the 2012 Canada Sport Policy (CSP) showed that while youth initiatives were the most common type of SFD initiative, these were most frequently applied in community-level sport environments and not within high-performance athletics. In other words, while positive youth development approaches are more commonplace in traditional recreation, play, and try-a-sport contexts, competitive sport leaders and athletes have generally not been exposed to training in ways that target and achieve life-skills-based positive development outcomes.

As Canada moves toward the renewal and adoption of a new policy to guide the next 10 years, further integration is anticipated. The 2021 CSP renewal environmental scan, for example, cited recommendations for more equitable and inclusive sport overall that unites different approaches and actors. The 2023 What We Heard research report that will inform the CSP renewal, showed that Canadians believe the sport system has the opportunity to promote positive values and outcomes beyond sport, such as in the home, at school and in the community. Two thirds of respondents on a national survey indicated that SFD approaches should be integrated into other sport participation contexts in the new policy, rather than stand alone as a separate context for participation.

This article draws on recent insights from the Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment Foundation’s Change the Culture, Change the Game report. It extends the practical recommendations and approaches voiced by over 8,200 youth and parents in Ontario for sport organizations and administrations looking to act on advancing a more positive culture for youth in sport. We make the case for all sport environments to incorporate an SFD approach and offer examples for how to get started.

Insights on trust, inclusion and youth sport culture

The MLSE Foundation Change the Game research project, implemented in collaboration with Dr Simon Darnell, Director of the University of Toronto Centre for Sport Policy Studies, engaged youth and parents on how issues of sport access, barriers, equity and culture show up for them.

From the perspective of youth, indicators of trust and inclusion remain a concern. In a research sample that is representatively diverse with regard to age, gender, race, geography, ability and household income, 82% of respondents reported not having anyone they feel they can talk to about experiences with racism or discrimination in sport. This increases among Latinx women and girls (89%), youth from Northern Ontario (91%) and youth with a visible disability (94%). While incidents of racism and discrimination in sport remain disproportionately experienced by Black youth, Indigenous youth, women, girls, and youth with disabilities, the perceived lack of trust among teammates, coaches, and the sport provider paints a sobering picture of a sport environment that is not an authentically safe space for those it intends to serve. 

Para hockey youth

Qualitatively, youth and parents shared stories and details of how a culture of silence surrounding issues of safety and quality in sporting environments is perpetuated. Youth who have directly experienced an adverse event report they do not feel comfortable raising or reporting the issue due to a lack of trust that teammates, coaches, or the organization will “have their back.” Further, youth and parents who were aware of a serious incident having affected someone else expressed anxiety about whether to speak up or engage on the issue out of fear of losing their or their child’s spot on a team.

Amidst widespread discourse on Safe Sport and several recent high-profile instances of toxic cultures in hockey, basketball, gymnastics, soccer and across the sporting landscape, it is important to ask what change looks like from the perspective of youth, and how to get there. If more inclusive and positive cultures, trusting relationships, and environments that are physically and psychologically safe for young athletes are the building blocks of the future we want to build, what is our next move?

To start, let’s listen to what they have to say.

Youth and parents call for Sport For Development as part of solution

The 2022 Change the Game research project findings left us with an evidence-based blueprint for how to move forward with making the changes to support youth sport access, engagement, and equity. The incorporation of aspects of SFD in youth sport spaces is key. At MLSE Foundation, we see a tremendous opportunity to utilize sport to address the growing crisis in youth mental health post-pandemic, and a demand for sport programs that develop life skills as much as sport skills.

Of the nearly 8200 young Ontarians whose voices are represented in this rich data set, almost 60% voiced support for sport programs being used to teach and develop social, emotional and developmental life skills within youth. These themes were especially prevalent among youth with disabilities, Black, Indigenous, South Asian, and mixed-race youth, and youth from Eastern Ontario and the Greater Toronto Area.

Youth and parents were clear about how the barriers of affordability, ongoing health and safety concerns, and social factors are leaving too many of them on the sidelines. Prominent social factors relate largely to the post-pandemic reality of decreased social connectedness highlighted in other research including Toronto Foundation’s 2022 Social Capital Report. Canadians, including youth, have less frequent contact each week with individuals outside of their households, and interact in-person with smaller circles of family and friends compared to pre-pandemic. These changes impact ability to engage in team sports, and likelihood of signing up with a friend – a factor that is known to facilitate participation, particularly among girls. Socio-environmental barriers also include lack of access to local facilities and lacking a means of transportation to sport programs, particularly affecting youth in northern, rural, and remote communities in the Change the Game research project. Youth have also been clear about what constitutes a safe and inclusive environment. Youth want a system focused on healthy, prosocial opportunities, provided by organizations where the culture is physically and psychologically safe. Strength-based approaches, where youth’s self-determination and strengths are emphasized and youth are viewed as resourceful and resilient, are foundational to SFD offerings and remind sport leaders and the youth we serve to see themselves in terms of assets and potential, not risks and defects.

Youth and parents signing up to play are seeking a safe place to form or develop healthy friendships and relationships. Alongside affordability, a lack of friends or peers to play with and not feeling welcome or included as part of a team were the strongest barriers to engagement in sport emerging from the COVID-19 pandemic. Having no peers to play with was of particular concern amongst girls. The research also found an extremely strong correlation between sport participation and sense of belonging, highlighting the potential of sport opportunities as strong catalysts for building community among youth, even in the context of post-pandemic social disconnection. These findings emphasize SFD approaches as a vital investment in communities where social connection and capital have been seriously compromised, including sport communities.

Practical steps for advancing a positive culture for youth in sport

Strength-based cultures. Safe spaces to formulate healthy relationships. Positive environments to learn and develop within. Cultural changes of this nature are often cited as priorities for addressing issues of toxicity across the sport landscape, without defining what that could look like in practical terms. Here are five initial areas of focus that sport organizations and administrators can consider when thinking about how to get started.

kids stretching

  1. Promote a welcoming environment: “Make it fun and get it done”

Implementation of welcoming and safe environments for athletes, participants, staff, and volunteers begins at the organizational level by fostering inclusive cultures. Culture is a term that is referenced often in sports, but it becomes increasingly important when we pluralize the word and intentionally consider the unique and diverse lived experiences that individuals bring to each organization.

Taking a more holistic approach in this way allows for organizations to develop, and live, core values that permeate through the work that they do and guide planning, actions and decisions in a way that ensures everyone feels welcome. Principles such as trust and respect, for example, remain vital to creating positive environments, however we encourage sport organizations to develop core values that are meaningful and unique to them and the impact and outcomes they are striving to achieve.

A core value at MLSE LaunchPad, for example, is ‘Our Differences Make the Difference’, which includes the principles of trust and respect but also encompasses the belief that MLSE LaunchPad’s strength is rooted in diverse voices, ideas and lived experiences. Another example is ‘We Are Family’, which includes unconditional care and accountability. Collectively, the effort of leadership, coaches, staff and volunteers working together on action plans on how to live and operationalize values can lead to culturally relevant operations and programming, inclusive hiring practices, and staff training. All of these things ensure that individuals consistently feel physically, psychologically, and socially safe and supported when engaging with an organization and its personnel, programs, clubs or leagues.

  1. Shared reflection: “Identify your blind spots”

Consistently create space to understand what current access, equity, and engagement issues exist within your organization’s membership and community to increase awareness of organizational blind spots and to inform priority-setting and solutions. Engaging community stakeholders to elicit feedback and perspective, in addition to leadership and staff, is vital before any decisions or adjustments are made.

Gathering reflections on statements such as “Sports should help me feel better” and what supports are required for this to be true can help organizations prioritize resources. For example, access to sport opportunities and support with easier access to mental health services was identified as a priority by a large proportion of youth in the Change the Game study. However, understanding what this could look like in a specific space, club, or team requires further reflection and dialogue with its intended beneficiaries.

Practical implementations of intelligence-gathering can take the form of parent and guardian surveys, focus groups, one-on-one conversations, engagement of a community organization with expertise in the area, the construction of a youth advisory council, or other creative ways to facilitate communication between staff and young people. This practice of ongoing two-way communication helps ensure that organizations are making decisions that best suit their members.

  1. Policies and processes that support transparency, development and trust: “Say what you do, and do what you say”

Building a process for active review of internal policies can promote transparency, respect for others, and the ongoing accountability to evaluate the processes that drive an organization. Policies and processes must evolve in lockstep with changing member needs and interests to ensure that organizational priorities and incentives are aligned with those of the communities they serve. Ideally, a continuous cycle of shared reflection will lead to a continuous cycle of organizational review. In turn, this will help create a feedback loop communicating to members and key stakeholders that their voices are valued and acted upon where possible and increasing the likelihood of developing a mutual trust through the collaborative transparency of the process.

Review processes should be formal, scheduled activities and informed by key stakeholder feedback to complement other inputs such as sport accountabilities, research and evaluation insights, and the key sport and non-sport outcomes (for example, youth or community engagement, mental wellness, or sense of belonging) the organization is striving to achieve.

  1. Coaching standards and development: “Youth first, always”

With almost 60% of youth calling for sport and sport programs that teach and help them learn and develop social, emotional and developmental life skills, it is important to see and utilize sport as a vehicle for learning and development. As such, coaching standards and development should reflect this sentiment and incorporate SFD strategies including the explicit transference of life skills that are intended to advance positive youth development.

Just as basketball exercises can teach dribbling skills and hockey exercises can teach stickhandling skills, they can also intentionally teach life skills such as leadership, critical thinking, social competence, or resilience. Sports can and should contribute to the holistic development of youth that have shared the opinion that “I am more than an athlete.” The adoption of a train-the-trainer model, for example, can encourage organizations to review their coach training curricula to assess whether these standards are considered and if coaches are being developed to coach the whole person. Ensuring that staff have both formal and informal mentorship opportunities will provide important professional development opportunities that lead to ongoing learning and benefit the entire community. Ultimately, the leadership of an organization should set the tone throughout the organization and consider this call for prioritizing youth wellbeing in how it reviews, updates, and implements training models for a youth sport landscape whose future is rooted in a SFD mindset.  

coach helps youth hockey player tie skatesIn addition to the “what” that coaches will be teaching and developing, Change the Game further challenges organizations to focus on the “who.” Youth are calling for “coaches who look like me” and organizations have a responsibility to ensure that they implement inclusive recruitment and hiring practices. If 82% of youth are reporting not having anyone they feel they can talk to about experiences with racism or discrimination in sport, the value of lived experience needs to be added to the list of work experience, education, and qualifications that often become the main factors in hiring. While this can look slightly different based on each individual member of the community, the intentionality behind these actions remains consistent and in support of the vital role of the coach in facilitating a welcoming, inclusive, and safe environment that is necessary for youth to recognize and reach their full potential. These considerations can continue to fuel the training of the next generation of leaders in SFD practices and truly help change the game.

  1. Data-driven approaches: “You can’t manage what you don’t measure”

Adopt a data-driven approach to monitoring the quality of internal culture. Applying a data equity lens to collect, anonymize, and use demographic data, including race, gender, ability, and household income will help your organization better understand the evolving needs and experiences of athletes, coaches, and staff.

In short: collect feedback, and most importantly, use it. This will help to deepen understanding, identify blind spots, inform decision-making and monitor progress over time. Learn from external research to pilot bite-sized experiments in SFD approaches – the Journal of Sport for Development and are great starting places to begin exploring practical, evidence-based approaches to building life skills and other positive youth development outcomes through sports.

It’s ok to start small, as long as you start somewhere. If you are a sport organization who provides opportunities for youth and are interested in having a sounding board or are seeking resources on what an equitable approach to demographic data collection could look like in your setting, reach out to a member of the MLSE Foundation and LaunchPad research and evaluation team any time.

Concluding thoughts

All sports are SFD opportunities in that positive social and economic benefits can and should be expected from sport initiatives at all levels. In the post-pandemic era and during a time of reckoning for the youth sport sector, approaches borrowed from the SFD space offer rich insight into how to engage youth positively at all levels of the sport system. Youth have made it clear that that there is no longer room for sport programs and indeed systems that focus exclusively on physical development at the expense of social, emotional and cognitive considerations.

Researchers correlate early specialization in sport with a higher likelihood of injury, burnout and dropout from sport. Multi-sport participation helps young athletes develop a spectrum of skills that transfer to later specialization. The best advice regarding pre-puberty athletes is to help them experience a variety of sports and activities, including unstructured play, and allow them to gravitate to their sport of choice.

Biking is a popular form of physical activity for children that has risks for injury to the head. Research shows that children who rode bicycles without a helmet are 14 times more likely to experience a fatal crash compared to children wearing helmets. Safe Kids provides safety tips on how to ensure that your child has a properly-fitted helmet. Helmets should not rock side-to-side when shaking your head and the strap below the chin should always be fastened. When you open your mouth wide, your helmet should feel snug around your head, otherwise tighten your straps!

New research from the University of Victoria in Australia found that two thirds of girls who drop out of sport said their main reason for stopping was lack of enjoyment. Researchers provide 3 recommendations for organizations to keep girls loving sport, including developing strategies that focus on fun and skill improvement for all players, regardless of talent level.

The Game in the Child Model is an athlete-centred model that prioritizes learning how to teach the child before teaching them to play the sport. It involves considering characteristics of the child (how they think, feel), coach (past and present experiences) and organization (type and purpose). This leads to a better understanding of how play can be used as a tool for growth and development.