Today I had the pleasure of attending the 2017 Aspen Institute Project Play Summit. I was interested in their initiatives to improve youth sports (check out the link to read about the Aspen Institute and the great work they are doing), but specifically as their work relates to youth recreational sport coaching. There was a lot of great discussion during the sessions. Highlights included:
- Moderator and fellow Arizona Wildcat Dan Hicks doing a fine job, including moderating a panel of kids telling the group what they like about sports
- Craig Robinson (VP Player Development, New York Knicks and 2016 Summit guest speaker Michelle Obama’s brother) made a point that the effect of improved coaching can be transformational
- Former MLB player Rick Ankiel sharing his experience in youth sports – a very demanding father made it less than ideal – and how he feels it’s his job to break the cycle and give his kids positive reinforcement
- The President of Little League International saying he wears the label ‘Rec League’ as a badge of honor (in a conversation where he shared that some in social media had intended it as a put-down)
- MLB commissioner Rob Manfred spoke about initiatives the league has in place to increase youth participation
- There was much discussion about why, despite what seems like a significant amount of research and information suggesting that sports specialization is bad for kids, it continues…the consensus of the attendees was to continue to educate parents on the dangers and corresponding benefits of playing multiple sports
In general, Project Play has 8 big ideas (‘plays’) that can get and keep all kids active through sport. Number 7 is near and dear to my heart: Train All Coaches. Here’s an excerpt from their seminal 2015 Sport for All, Play for Life report about coaches:
“Coaches are the delivery mechanism for quality sport programming. They determine how much exercise occurs during practice. Research aggregated by the President’s Council on Fitness, Sports & Nutrition shows that goo coaches also lower kids’ anxiety levels and lift their self-esteem. They help boys and girls enjoy the sport. They can make an athlete for life – or wreck enthusiasm for sport altogether… Trained coaches do best. One study found that only 5 percent of kids who played for trained coaches quit the sport the next year; the attrition rate was 26 percent otherwise.”
Today there was a session dedicated to this area as well as an announcement about a bigger initiative relating to it. NBC broadcaster Rebecca Lowe moderated a panel asking “What’s fair for parents to ask of coaches?” that included the CEO of US Lacrosse, Steve Stenersen. Lowe made a good point when she referred to the state of rec sports coaching today: we have a nation of well-meaning volunteers. Stenersen made a bold statement when he said what the US needed was standardized consistency across leagues/sports.
The bigger announcement was part of their Project Play 2020 initiative that will focus on two of the areas: Encourage Sport Sampling and Train All Coaches. This initiative intends to grow the quality and quantity of coaches and address the fact that less than 1/3 of youth coaches are trained in competencies such as safety and sport instruction.
In the post-conference survey, Project Play asked what attendees would like to do to partner with them in this initiative. I responded that I am very interested in seeing what role the Hustle & Attitude philosophy can play in helping achieve their goals of increasing the number of well-trained coaches available to work with youth recreational sports participants.
All in all, it was a very well done summit. Industry and youth sports organization leaders were able to get together and discuss the issues and concerns related to youth sports today. I appreciate the efforts of the Project Play team to make sport accessible to all children regardless of zip code or ability.