In their 2015 seminal report “Sport for All, Play for Life: A Playbook to Get Every Kid in the Game,” the Aspen Institute researched and graded the state of youth sports and how well the kids and communities are being served by their stakeholders. Aside from offering grades and tracking the data, the report also identified the appropriate steps to take in building the youth sports movement.
Known as “the 8 plays,” Project Play focused on eight strategies for the eight sectors that touch the lives of children as the key developments. Some of these strategies focus on the community, such as creating more in-town leagues and promoting “free play” instead of pay-to-play leagues. Other strategies target injury prevention. One key strategy centers around finding and training qualified coaches.
The importance of the youth coach is paramount to a young athlete, both on and off the field. In their “Sport for All, Play for Life” report, the Aspen Institute found that five percent of kids who played for trained coaches quit their sport the next year. Compare that number to the overall rate of 26 percent and you can see just how important the trained coach is to the development of a young athlete.
The report found five key developments involving coaches over the past year.
Baseball has made the most progress in growing the number of trained coaches.
Despite a push by Little League Baseball in 2012 to focus more on coach education, three in four coaches remain untrained in motivational techniques, while nearly 66% say they have received no training in skills and tactics. Still, the increase in trained coaches since 2012 is a good sign.
The best trained coaches are in lacrosse.
Lacrosse has grown exponentially across the country over the last decade. Even with all that fast growth, the sport’s coaches remain some of the finest in the youth sports world. Nearly 56% of all youth lacrosse coaches are trained in sport skills and tactics, while over half are trained in general safety and injury prevention, including CPR/First Aid, physical conditioning, and concussion management. See chart below.
More organizations are creating all-in-one training packages for coaches in the core key competencies.
Online and on-site training programs are now being offered more than ever, surely a great sign and a step in the right direction. Minnesota Youth Athletic Services and the Positive Coaching Alliance are just a couple examples of organizations paving the way to train youth coaches while conducting national background checks.
Higher income males dominate the youth coaching landscape.
There have been very few changes since 2012 in who is running a youth sports team.
Deploying young, current athletes as youth coaches appears to be helping.
It’s very early in this study, but it does appear that youth athletes respond better to current athletes and those who are younger than the average coach. NE Distance, located in Providence, Rhode Island, has had some stellar results.
Overall, the Aspen Institute’s State of Play gave the grade of a C- on the challenge of training youth coaches. This isn’t too surprising, as one of the main pain points emphasized by current organizers and our partners at our last two partner days, at our headquarters and at Dodger Stadium, was finding and training qualified coaches to lead teams.
You can read the State of Play full report here.