Better Programs - Overview

As evidenced by some of the most compelling business literature (e.g., Built to Last (1994) and The Living Company (1997), companies are living organisms and the ability of these organisms to grow and thrive depends on their ability to learn - that is, pursue a path of continuous inquiry, assessment and positive change.  Atul Gawande's book, Better:  A Surgeon's Notes on Performance (2007), explores continuous learning from the perspective of why some medical professionals get better patient outcomes than others.  Through a series of case studies, Gawande opines that the difference in performance lies not in treatment methods or staff qualifications but rather in the ability of hospitals and clinics to continually improve as learning organizations.  Hospitals that operate as learning organizations have superior patient tracking systems, early warning systems, emphasis on growing staff capacity and proper incentives - in short, everyone in the hospital pays constant attention to the key indicators of how patients are doing and they work as a learning team to implement proven strategies tailored to particular patients.  Gawande's chief example of a learning community is an underresourced hospital clinic in Mumbai, India that functions in part through daily swapping of stories of patient care.  

The combination of children and sport yields a multitude of diverse and passionate opinions that impede blending individual attitudes and beliefs into a shared philosophy of learning and teaching.  Transforming youth sport into places of learning rests on five critical success factors:

1.  A stable setting to ensure sufficient instructional inquiry and improvement.

2.  Grouping of all learners, including the adult teachers, according to student age and need.

3.  A protocol that guides (not prescribe) youth sport programs in the planning and delivery of lessons that everyone tries out, use of performance data to evaluate the commonly planned and delivered lessons, reflection on student gains to determine next steps and reoccurring opportunities for teachers to contribute their knowledge, creativity and skills.

4.  A "point person" that keeps the process on track.

5.  Building teacher confidence in the value of continuous improvement instruction as a result of seeing tangible gains in student learning.

Using these success factors, youth sport programs can function as educational systems with a shared commitment and capacity for ongoing improvement in teaching.  Markers of success include evidence of a common language (commonly understood terms like success), a community (other people to share learning and experiences with) and role models (teacher-leaders).

BeLikeCoach supports an inside-out evolutionary approach to change that helps local communities use research-based and technology-driven resources to start, improve and sustain quality youth sport programs and settings.  Program directors, coaches, parents and athletes, supported by cost-effective internet technology, can form improved connections so they can better learn together.  As local youth sport programs learn to function as educational systems that require constant improvement in what the adults are teaching, the potential for systemic change is unleashed as others operating in similar settings gain access to local knowledge of what worksAs this useable knowledge builds, everyone benefits by seeing what better youth sport programs look like in various settings - in urban and rural areas, in recreational and intramural leagues, and in programs for elite athletes.  As practices of knowledge spread, more youth gain access to sport programs that are wholesome, fun and exciting places of learning where children aspire to Be Like Coach.