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Our philosophy; Keep It Simple.

Creating high quality youth sports experiences at the community / grassroots level to remove barriers and expand participation.

Importance of Great Community based Youth Sports Programs


Physical Benefits

Being active / participating as a child sets a foundation for being active / participating as an adult, prepares bodies to be more resilient, and lessens the likelihood of obesity during their lifetime.

Social / Emotional Benefits

Sports participation, particularly in a community based model, provides opportunities to develop mentorship / leadership traits, and teaches perseverance, patience, tolerance, empathy and cooperation.

Educational Benefits

physically active kids / kids who participate in youth sports demonstrate confidence, self esteem, higher rates of positive classroom behaviors (concentration, cooperation, creative thinking, etc) and fewer negative classroom behaviors.  


Youth sports participation benefits children in critical ways.

Program Assessment / Developing Core Values


Community based programs are uniquely positioned:

to remove barriers to participation, promote inclusion, and provide the physical, social/emotional and educational  benefits to as many children as possible, for as long as possible.  

  1. LOW COST: removal of the cost barrier through tax subsidies, lowered cost of facility use, and little to no travel related costs.

  2. LOCAL: removal of geographic barriers through focus on locally played games, and limiting the resources / time needed for travel to and from practices and games.

  3. TIME: removal of the time commitment barrier by limiting the number and duration of practices and games in a season, allowing for diversification of activities, integration of free play opportunities, rest, and development of other interests.  AKA = greater family balance.

  4. SKILL: removal of the skill barrier by offering multiple points of entry along the child development timeline, ensuring that it’s never too late to try or develop skill or passion for a sport.

  5. CONSISTENCY: community based providers have an distinct advantage in their ability to define and control the values and beliefs represented on the field by ALL of the teams, coaches and families underneath their program umbrella, thus providing a more consistent experience for all program participants, regardless of the team or coach to which they were assigned.

To be able to position your program in a dynamic youth sports marketplace while serving the needs and best interests of the children in your range of influence, you need to understand what DEFINES your program, and how that shapes your program’s reputation.  


This can be positive or negative, or a combination of both… but it needs to be an honest assessment...warts and all.

Go through these 3 steps to assess your existing program and develop your core values.

1. What characteristics / traits / words currently define your youth sports program?


  • Gather your team and brainstorm… whiteboard it.

  • Whittle it down to the top 4-6 agreed upon defining characteristics, and be able to describe what each of those mean in detail… these traits are the things that have the potential to become your organization's / program’s CORE VALUES.



3. How do we then create alignment between what we ARE and what we WANT TO BE?

  • BE CRITICAL: What defining characteristics need to be reconsidered and / or redeveloped to provide better alignment with LTAD concepts?

    • What key areas can your organization focus on that will a) ensure a high quality youth sports experience, and b) ensure that the physical, emotional and social benefits of sports are being made available to as many as possible for as long as possible, thus increasing the chances of positive athletic outcomes for all kids?

  • CORE VALUES: The resulting list becomes your programs CORE VALUES, and this is your road map to guide every decision and every conversation that will take place, no matter how large or small.

    • Your program reputation will then be defined by how well you honor and execute upon your core values on a daily basis.

    • This list doesn’t change… if executed, and if able to be “experienced”, this becomes your program’s identity.

2. What characteristics / traits / words SHOULD define a quality youth sports program / experience?


Compare your defining characteristics to the research based and LTAD defined traits of a positive, developmentally beneficial youth sports experience.  (Does your program put the health and needs of KIDS first?  Or is it currently serving ADULT needs?)

  • Fun / Joy / Intrinsic reward

  • Inclusion / Removal of barriers to access.

  • Age appropriate instruction & formats

    • Strategic, long spectrum approach to progression of motor skills, tactical skills and social / emotional development.

    • Activity based instruction - No Lines, No Laps, No Lectures. c.    Freeplay / Creative Play

    • Rest / Recover = Balance

  • Positive / encouraging interactions with coaches and adults.

  • De-emphasize winning / results, accentuate skill development & participation, pre age 12.

  • Talent ID vs. Talent Selection

  • Cradle to Grave, not cradle to Varsity.

Using your core values to define and guide the participant experience, from first to final “touch”.

For your program to develop credibility and reputation, you need to DELIVER.  The experience needs to match the vision and message.  Leave no detail to chance

1. Program Details (Rules, Format, etc.)

The way in which the details of your program are structured are critical to the experience your participants will have, and need to align with the core values you’ve defined, and the best practices of Long Term Athletic Development..

  • PROGRAM FORMAT:Age groups, coed vs. gender separate, season length, number of games, number of practices, days of the week, times of day, resident vs. non-resident, cost, seasonal “crossover” (one league / program at a time, or multiple options at the same time), how teams are sorted (play with friends vs random), etc.

  • RULES: your game rules and field sizes should be developed to adhere to best practices for age appropriate development, and LTAD principles.  Age appropriate field sizes, numbers of players on the field, game length, ball size, coach “engagement” (coach on the field with players vs off the field), etc.

    • Most sport governing bodies have age level recommendations on field size, equipment size, game length, and other format related variables.

  • TRAINING: every coach, every staff member an advocate.  Empowered with the tools they need to provide a great experience to the kids (this will be discussed in depth in a following section).

2. Registration & Customer Service


Don’t forget that the participant experience begins long before a child ever steps foot on the field.

  • REGISTRATION: is your website and registration portal providing the necessary connections between your core values and your program details?  Is the experience simple, easy to navigate and centered on the end user?  BIG differences in software capabilities… be thoughtful about choices made here, because they have big downstream impacts.

  • CUSTOMER SERVICE - Is your customer service team fully versed in your program’s core values?  Can they explain them and honor them?  Are the decisions that are made on each call / customer contact honoring the values of the program?

3. Communication


Participants are great at second guessing.  It’s your responsibility to communicate the fact that your program details / formats are not random, but rather coordinated, thoughtful strategies to ensure the program experience of each child matches the vision and core values of the program itself.  Be willing to connect the dots for parents… be an over-communicator.  Use the tools you have to provide insight and information (website, email, social media, etc).  Predict questions & concerns, be proactive about getting critical information out to parents and coaches directly, and tie those details back to your core values whenever possible. 

4. Consistency


Few things are as important to program reputation than consistency.  The strategies used and decisions made to ensure a great experience should be sport “agnostic”...repeatable, and always focused on honoring the core values.

Communication & Buy In


Core values carry no weight or importance unless they are communicated, understood, and adopted by ALL stakeholders throughout the organization and/or program...parents, coaches, administrators, staff, players.


How do we “TELL THE WORLD” how our program is different, and why they should care?  How do we empower our “audience” to be our advocates & mouthpieces, and create groundswell support behind our core values?

1. Seek & Believe

First and foremost, you have to believe it YOURSELF.  There have never been more great resources available to reinforce the benefits of LTAD and athlete focused youth sport philosophies and strategies.  Keep reading, keep learning, have some of the key statistics at your fingertips, know the key case studies, and believe!​

2. Direct Messaging


Go directly to the people you need to convince and sell it.  Targeted email to coaches and parents is still a great way of defining your program’s core values, and expanding in detail about what it means to honor those core values.

  • Describe WHAT your core values are, simply and clearly.   

  • Describe HOW your program is honoring those core values (or plans to).  Be specific ...what formats, what policies, what choices.

  • Know and share the data / research that gives validity to the core values you’ve identified. You’re not making any of this stuff up...these values are scientifically proven to lead to better developmental outcomes, and better athletic outcomes… the best of both worlds.   

    • Your confidence in this validity is what gives a PARENT confidence to reject the conventional wisdom and sales pitch, put their faith and confidence in your program, and select it for their child.

  • Share the vision: if the program you’re describing is not a reflection of the current program state, paint the picture.  Share your vision of what a great youth sports program looks like, in vivid detail, and describe how, TOGETHER, you are going to get there.

3. Social Media


Social media provides a relevant, real time opportunity to accentuate your core values, and tie those values into national issues, stories and create connection and relevance.  

  • Share articles, research and data points… use these to connect the dots back to your program format choices and values, and how these connections are promoting better outcomes.

  • Take Risks / Be Bold / Encourage engagement & conversation… even from critics!

    • Depending on how well you know your content, engagement with critics (when done respectfully) can be HUGE in terms of reinforcing the validity of your program traits, AND in terms of promoting stronger support and belief from those who align with you and your program.

Empowering Coaches & Staff



The reach of a primary messenger (administrator) is prone to the limits of physical presence and the lack of hours in a workday.  For program culture to take root and ENDURE, it’s critical to empower the stakeholders who represent the program daily on the court / field, and in the community. This means that your coaches and staff in particular need to understand and buy into the core values of the program, and understand their role in promoting and upholding a culture that is consistent with those values.

1. Training

Staff and Coaches (even volunteers) WANT to be successful in their role.  Therefore they not only deserve excellent training on how to be effective, they CRAVE it.  It’s important to make this a REGULAR part of your pre-season regimen.  


Training should not be limited to game specific tactics or instruction techniques.  Training should spend considerable time on core values and execution… explaining the WHY behind the WHAT.  Providing them with the tools they need to confidently advocate for the program while fulfilling their roles on the court / field and setting a good example for participating families under their guidance pays dividends in 2 critical ways…both of these have direct impact on the program experience for participants.


  • CONSISTENCY: minimization of the “random effect” where a child & family’s experience is dependent on the individual / personal qualities of their randomly assigned coach.

  • RETENTION: a shared feeling of greater investment and value from your staff and volunteers.  They feel more responsible FOR the delivery of the program, more valued BY the program, and more invested IN the program.  This makes them want to return season after season, reducing the amount of recruiting that YOU need to do.

4. Traditional Media (Radio, Newspaper, TV)


  • Use local connections to further the effort to share & define your program’s core values.

  • Use the platforms to highlight specific ways in which your core values are reflected on the ground… specific applications within your programs

5. In-Person - the lost art of 'holding court'


Some of the best opportunities to talk about your program’s core values, supporting data, and vision is during in-person conversations with parents, coaches and staff.  These opportunities are abundant on game days, but require you to be present and engaged.  These opportunities are incredibly effective in that they provide a platform for your passion to shine through in ways that aren’t possible in print or on social media.   

2. Resources


There are some great, FREE resources available to guide organizations through training their coaches on best practices for coaching kids.   a.  

3. Curriculum & Lesson Planning


An organization can empower their coaches and staff by providing well designed lesson plans and program curriculum for their coaches.  Again, this minimizes the “random effect”, makes it easier for volunteers to fully invest and commit, and ensures your ability to consistently deliver on your skill development commitments as a program.

  • Age Appropriate - Lesson plans need to be structured, consistent, and age appropriate.  These are best made a regular part of weekly coach communication.

  • Progressive - each lesson plan should build upon the techniques / concepts introduced in the one before it, in a recognizable progression.

  • Many Free & Paid lesson plan resources available, however, take the time to review adequately and ensure that they align with your program values before introduction / implementation.

Culture, Decision Making, & Conflict Resolution


4. Feedback & Communication


Just like training, staff and volunteers crave constructive feedback that enables them to be more effective in their role, feel invested, and deliver upon the vision of the program.  To encourage and critique staff & volunteers effectively, you need to first observe them in action.  


Don’t be a stranger… Be regularly present, be engaged, provide feedback which illustrates how their performance is either helping the program realize it’s vision, or limiting it, along with advice and encouragement on how it can be improved. Be tactful, yet honest.  These are your ground soldiers, after all… 

 When core values are developed, implementation successfully executed, buy-in fostered, and stakeholders empowered to be advocates, you’ve successfully established a vibrant program culture!  But like a living, breathing thing, culture must constantly be tended to and cultivated to remain vibrant and enduring. 

1. Decision Making

Well established culture and core values has the power to guide all program level decision making.


Appropriate decisions HONOR your program culture and core values, and reinforce them.  They never contradict or detract from them.   

  • At times, this will mean making decisions that make some people unhappy, particularly individuals who don’t align with your core values.   

  • Trust your instincts… the right decision is often apparent with great clarity when culture is strong.   

  • Making the right choice...the one that honors your core values (even in the face of opposition) preserves the credibility of your program, and reinforces the reasons your participants have chosen your program in the first place.   

    • STRENGTHENS buy-in & customer confidence, enhances retention.

2. Conflict Resolution


When the inevitable conflicts and competing agendas arise, your core values and culture will always provide you with the solid foundation by which to stand on when conversations get difficult.


  • When your program philosophy is challenged, seek strength in the research / data that originally supported your program’s stated core values (lesson 2).  Everyone is entitled to their opinion, but facts will be the light to your decision making path.

  • Be confident enough to tell someone when your program is not a good fit.  While your program may be for ANYONE, it might not be for EVERYONE, particularly if they adhere to a conflicting philosophy. 

  • Culture provides the CONFIDENCE to discipline properly, but ALSO empowers your stakeholders to call out destructive behaviors as they see and experience them as well.   

    • The true sign of a deep, vibrant culture is stakeholders who are willing to stand up and defend that culture when they observe a direct challenge to it.    

Safe Sports