Looking beyond the scoreboard to define success in youth sport
In an age where youth sport is becoming more professionalised at an earlier age, it’s important we reflect on how we measure success in youth sport. And in particular, in what ways do we measure success in youth sport ‘away from the scoreboard’?
That’s not to say competition outcomes aren’t important in youth sports. Who wins and loses, times, placings, table standings, awards… They are all important determinants of how we view success and what it means to be successful in youth sport.
But the real question is… is being successful, through the lens of competition, the only way we should view success in youth sport?
From a Balance is Better perspective – we’d argue no.
Defining success in youth sport
While we often talk about success in youth sport through the lens of competition, there are also other ways that success in youth sport is defined.
- Athletic development, e.g., personal bests, being able to do a new skill, etc.
- The development of young people through sport e.g., developing more confidence, self-leadership, providing service to others, etc.
- Retaining young people in sport, e.g., how many people come back to your progamme year on year?
- Young people are happy when they are involved in sport, e.g. they feel like they belong (aka have a tribe), they get to experience the feeling of getting better at something
Because what we measure often influences what we think is important. What we think is important influences how and why we act. In effect, the measures visible to us, incentivises us to act and think in certain ways (or not). The most visible measures often have the greatest incentivising power.
In sport, the measures that are most visible to us are associated with competition – points scored, position on the table, win/loss, and awards.
Just think about it. If someone asks you “how’d you go last season?”, what’s the first thing that comes to mind?…
That’s not to say we shouldn’t have measures associated with competition (after all, competition is inherent in sport).
But if we are to also value the ‘other definitions of success’, such as the ones outlined above, its important to be purposeful in making sure that these ‘other definitions of success’ get visibility too.
And the best way to do this is through measures.
So how could we measure these ‘other types of success’ in youth sport?
- Get feedback from participants about whether they feel they have improved in their sport.
- Track rates of retention.
- Get feedback from participants about their satisfaction; whether they want to come back; whether their families had a good time; whether young people have developed their character qualities (e.g. confidence, resilience, etc.).
How does your organisation measure success in youth sport?
Does your organisation have a measure, an objective, a key results, a goal, etc. that helps keep the eye on the prize when it comes to measuring success in youth sport away from the scoreboard? Yes – then let us know.
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