Programming that Supports Educational Outcomes
By Diana S. Cutaia
Research has shown that sports are a great hook to engage young people in a program that will not just enhance physical and mental health but also can improve academic outcomes. In 2009, Coaching Corps (formerly Team Up For Youth) released a report that explained how programs could intentionally impact educational outcomes. Yet, in order for programs to be successful in achieving these outcomes, it is recommended that they include the following components.
1. Connect more closely with the academic institutions of your athletes. Understand the learning styles and challenges of each athlete and seek to support the academic learning by working more closely with the schools.
- In practice: There are several ways to reach this goal including hiring teachers as coaches or assistant coaches, collaborate with schools on participation standards based on students’ educational abilities, and/or set school attendance as a requirement for participation.
2. Provide adequate training and support for coaches especially in the areas of youth development and learning.
- In Practice: Too many coaches training programs focus on skill development or game strategy. Spend equal or more time training coaches on the characteristics of a quality program that enhance, and support positive youth development. This training should include observation of coaches and feedback specific to those skills and most of all be ongoing.
3. Develop a program environment that support the positive engagement of parents and guardians.
- In Practice: Program administrators should aim to structure game times and/or showcases when parents are more likely to attend. However, ensure that you communicate with parents on a regular basis so that competitions are not the only time they engage with the programs. Recruiting parents as coaches can be successful if expectations are clear, well-defined and adequate training and supports are provided.
4. Allow youth to be instrumental and significant contributors to the program’s design.
- In Practice: As with all of us the more ownership we have in program activities the more investment there will be in ensuring individual success. Allow youth to design activities where appropriate and encourage leadership and problem solving skills by giving youth developmentally appropriate autonomy.
5. Risky behaviors can derail positive programing. Provide resources to support and educate youth to make healthy decisions.
- In Practice: Providing educational programing directed at the reduction of drug and alcohol use is only partially effective. Imbed in your program design opportunities to reinforce the negative effects of such behavior. Also consider having athletes sign or take pledges that state they will not use any substances including drugs, alcohol or tobacco products.
Rosewater, Ann. (2009). The 2009 Team-Up for Youth Monograph Series, Learning to Play and Playing to Learn: Organized Sports and Educational Outcomes. Oakland, CA: Team-Up for Youth