Evaluating impact of physical activity-based positive youth development (PA-PYD) programs: A tale of two exemplars
University of Minnesota
The PYD framework focuses on how youth acquire social, psychological, and physical competencies, or life skills, that enable them to grow and thrive in adolescence and beyond. Life skills refer to behaviors and attitudes learned in one domain (e.g., sport) that can be transferred to other domains, such as family, school, and community (Gould & Carson, 2008; Petitpas et al., 2005). Mastering life skills and attaining positive developmental outcomes (e.g., confidence, moral character) are most likely to occur within social and environmental contexts that include: (a) opportunities to engage in skill building activities; (b) supportive and trusting adult and peer relationships, and (c) a climate that emphasizes learning, improvement, and autonomy support (e.g., Eccles & Gootman, 2002; Petitpas et al., 2005). Evidence-based best practices for PA-PYD programs suggest that opportunities for acquiring life skills should be explicitly provided using an intentional curriculum delivered by adult leaders who are trained to implement lessons with fidelity within a caring and mastery-oriented climate. Sport scientists have embraced the PYD framework, resulting in many studies that are mostly qualitative and correlational in design (see Weiss, 2016, for a review). By contrast, few evaluation studies have been conducted to assess whether PA-PYD programs are successful in teaching life skills and promoting positive outcomes. Most studies used pretest-posttest designs without a comparison group, and few included follow-up assessments to determine whether any improvements were short-lived or enduring. To definitively conclude evidence of program impact, studies require rigorous criteria of appropriate comparison groups, a longitudinal design, and quantitative and qualitative methods to comprehensively determine effectiveness (Weiss et al., 2014, 2016). In my presentation, I will demonstrate the need for and benefits of rigorous research criteria by sharing data from evaluation studies of two PA-PYD programs—The First Tee and Girls on the Run. Findings from these studies provided strong evidence, using multiple methods with multiple stakeholders, that these programs are successful in teaching life skills and improving positive developmental outcomes. Findings also importantly identified the processes and mechanisms that explain findings of effectiveness that, in turn, inform evidence-based best practices. Collectively, the findings from both programmatic research efforts distinguish The First Tee and Girls on the Run, including their curricula and coach training, as exemplars for other programs to emulate.
Doing sport psychology within youth sport: Building rapport and working effectively with youth athletes
University of Tennessee
With the rise of organized youth sport programs and sport training centers around the world, it is safe to presume that there is a global interest in the development of youth athletes. Traditionally, sport professionals have focused on developing athletes physically, technically, and tactically; however, the purposeful development of mental and emotional skills is increasing in importance. If youth athletes are being placed in pressure situations, then those involved in organized sport are responsible for nurturing athletes’ physical, social, and mental development by teaching skills to successfully navigate the sport environment (Orlick, 1982; Weiss, 1991). Sport psychology professionals are arguably the most qualified professionals to provide mental skills training for the purpose of enhancing youth athletes’ sport development and performance. Although empirical research is limited, the ways in which sport psychology professionals adapt their content and delivery of mental skills training has gained global attention (Foster, Maynard, & Butt, 2015; Henriksen, Larsen, Storm, & Ryom, 2014). And, even more limited is research in the sport psychology literature exploring the relationship building process with youth athletes (Foster et al., 2015). This is an important consideration since the establishment of a trusting relationship is one of the most central components impacting a successful mental skills training process (Petitpas, Giges, & Danish, 1999). The purpose of the current presentation is to highlight relevant findings from in-depth interviews with 15 sport psychology consultants (SPCs) who work with athletes between five and 13 years of age about their experiences of building relationships and working effectively with youth athletes. Consensual Qualitative Research (CQR; Hill, 2012) procedures were used to analyze the interviews. An important thread throughout each theme was the emphasis on developing comfort among the SPC, youth athlete(s), parent(s), and coach(es). Getting to know the athletes’ stories, normalizing the consulting process, creating mental skills training connections outside of sport (e.g., school), and keeping it fun and simple were a few effective strategies used to nurture comfort and a trusting relationship with youth athletes. Participants discussed a clear developmental period (e.g., “the lights turn on”) at ages 9 and 10 that impacted teaching mental strategies effectively. Ways participants enhanced their own comfort working with youth athletes and the practical approaches they used to effectively teach mental strategies will be emphasized.
It’s first and foremost about building relationships: An underrated stepping stone for tennis coaches to foster talent development
The involvement of coaches and parents, key figures in shaping the experiences of youth athletes (Côté, 1999), has been widely investigated in tennis. The individual and costly nature of this sport, the potential to achieve elite levels early on, and the sustained training and competition demands make it an ideal setting for examining talent development issues (Gould, et al., 2008). Even though interactions between parents and coaches have tended to be portrayed as problematic and stressful (e.g., Harwood & Knight, 2009), smooth and positive relationships are possible and can only lead to beneficial outcomes (e.g., Gould et al., 2008). In the literature, coaches’ views on their relationships with parents have received more attention than their counterparts. The purpose of the current study was to further explore the parents’ perceptions of their own competences as tennis parents and of the quality of their relationships with coaches as well as to identify their criteria they used to choose their children’s coaches. As coaching and parenting research has been almost exclusively conducted in North America and the UK, this study was contextualized within the Swiss culture. Parents (N = 245) of elite tennis players who competed at the Junior Summer National Swiss Championship (five categories from U10 to U18) completed an online survey including scale-items and open-ended questions. All the French, German, and Italian language areas of Switzerland were represented in the sample. Only a third of the parents had ever attended some form of tennis parenting information sessions, but a wide majority of them self-reported as highly competent tennis parents who learned their skills mostly by experience overtime and through other parents. It also emerged from inductive content analyses that the choices for their children’s coaches was limited by geographical proximity and somewhat based on coaching competence level as the players developed. Besides technical and tactical skills, most parents emphasized the importance of coaches’ abilities and interest in building strong and trusting relationships with their children. A wide majority of parents considered high levels involvement in the parent and athlete collaboration as ideal and mentioned that open lines of communication, common objectives, and mutual trust are essential ingredients. Implications of the importance and ways to build rapport and nurture quality relationships in the athlete-coach-parent triangle will be discussed to further support parenting and coaching education initiatives.
Coaching optimal youth athletes: Practical strategies to enhance athlete resilience
University of Tennessee
How can youth coaches help their athletes to courageously face adversity and learn to come back stronger? Across contexts, resilience has been defined as an individual’s ability to “bounce back” after experiencing adversity and endure physical and/or psychological strain without showing major impairment (Jordan, 2013; Rutter, 1987; Masten, Best, & Garmezy, 1990). In sport, an athlete’s positive personality, motivation, focus, confidence, and perceived social support are factors that contribute to higher-quality resilience and optimal sport performance (Fletcher & Sarkar, 2012). From a team perspective, factors such as group structure, shared attitudes and behaviors, quality social capital, and collective efficacy are identified as features of a resilient team (Morgan, Fletcher, & Sarkar, 2013). It is apparent, as seen in previous research, that social support is a prominent component necessary for resilience development. Within the realm of sport, power figures such as the coach hold prominent influence regarding an athlete’s development and performance (Hellstedt, 1987; Smoll, Cumming, & Smith, 2011). Thus, it is imperative for coaches to consider the nature of their coach-athlete relationship and its impact on athlete resilience. Per Jowett and colleagues’ research (Jowett & Cockerill, 2002; Jowett & Chaundy, 2004; Jowett & Ntoumanis, 2004), a quality coach-athlete relationship (e.g., high levels of closeness, commitment, complemenentarity, and co-orientation) has been positively associated with outcomes such as an athlete’s self-concept and satisfaction (Jowett & Ntoumanis, 2004), harmonious passion in one’s sport (Lafrieniére et al., 2008), and team cohesion (Jowett & Chaundy, 2004). Given the magnitude regarding social support’s influence on resilience and the impact of a quality coach-athlete relationship on performance development and outcomes, it is vital to view resilience as not only an inherent trait but also a relational construct that can be influenced by the coach. Within social work literature, relational resilience is defined as growth-fostering relationships that can aid in the positive development of an individual’s resilience (Jordan, 2013). The aim of this presentation is to introduce a relational resilience framework relevant for the coach-athlete relationship within youth sport. This framework postulates mututal empathy, empowerment, and the development of courage as the three building blocks that influence an individual’s ability to “bounce back” resiliently (Jordan, 2013; Richardson et al., 1990). The second aim of this presentation will be to provide coaches with practical strategies as demonstrated from interview results with youth coaches regarding how to promote growth-fostering relationships in order to nurture resilience in youth athletes.