I view coaches as part of a community rather than as individual leaders of opposing teams. Therefore, my suggestion for improving youth sports is to help take coaches to the next level by developing a new coaching education model that is based on collaborative learning. At present, my vision of this model is to contrast the ubiquitous in-out workshop/clinic or expensive week-long evaluation/testing based certification courses with a more long-term process whereby coaches lead their own professional development.

Small cohorts of coaches work collaboratively to improve their own coaching by looking at their own athletes (students). These coaches come together with a question and plan a practice (exercises, coaching points, learning objectives, etc,) around that question. One coach will coach that practice to his/her athletes and others will watch and observe athlete performance and learning. This is followed up by the coaches coming together to discuss athlete (student) learning. Coaches may decide to revise the practice for that coach or another coach to present to his/her athletes for the cohort to observe. Through this process coaches are able to rely on a combination of outside knowledge as well as their own coaching knowledge to improve how they coach.

There are several upsides for youth sports as I see it. First, this model may be more effective than the mentorship model in recruiting and retaining women and minority coaches as it gives coaches a supportive community for developing their coaching skills (this is not to say that the cohorts are organized around gender or race, but rather around developmental level and maybe sport). Also, this model has the potential to break down barriers between coaches on opposing sides which in turn may encourage positive coaching behaviors during competition and recognition among coaches that while they are part of a community, so too are the youth regardless of which team they are on. If my competition improves so do I.

It’s a work in progress… 


Why Girls Sports Matter

February 5th marked National Girls and Women in Sports Day 2014. For many, sport is recognized as a tool for positive youth development and when conducted purposefully young participants learn important life skills such as leadership, teamwork and a strong sense of confidence. Sports play a particularly important role in girls’ lives.

Of course, we at Sol SC believe that soccer is the perfect sport to support and promote the health and well-being of girls and women. We are not alone. According to FIFA, the international governing body for soccer, there are more than 1.6 million registered female players under age 18 in the United States which makes soccer the most popular sport for girls and women. And yet, less than 10% of female players continue to participate in soccer after the age of 18. Although, it is important that soccer programs address this decline in participation, we also believe that soccer is just one of the many activities and/or sports that girls and women who want to play sports should have access to and be involved in.

Ultimately, it is important that if we are to keep girls in the game that sports programs are designed and delivered to met the unique needs of girls and women. As Joanne Boyle, UC Berkeley Head Women’s Basketball coach said, “…developing girls is not just a matter of putting pink ribbons on existing programs for boys.”

So, as we celebrate National Girls and Women in Sports Day, here are just a few of the benefits of sports participation for girls:

1.      Health & Happiness

  • Sports are FUN; girls who participate in sports have higher self-esteem and pride in themselves; physical activity can reduce symptoms of stress and depression among girls.
  • Regular physical activity in adolescence can reduce girls’ risk for obesity.
  • Research reveals that physical activity tends to discourage cigarette smoking among adolescent girls.
  • As little as four hours of exercise a week may reduce a teenage girl’s risk of breast cancer by up to 60%; breast cancer is a disease that afflicts 1 out of every 8 American women.

2.      Education

  • Girls who participate in sports are more likely to experience academic success and graduate from high school than those who do not play sports. And, those that play high school sports are more likely to complete college.
  • African American female athletes are 15% more likely to graduate from college compared to their non-athletic peers; Latina females who play sports are more likely to graduate from high school and attend college than those not playing.

3.      Employment & Leadership

  • Girls who play sports in high school go on to earn 7% higher annual wages than their non-athlete peers
  • Four out of five executive businesswomen played sports and attribute their success in business to their earlier involvement in sports.

What are your ideas for helping to keep girls and women in Sports?

As a reminder, Sol Soccer Club will be offering free clinics throughout the spring. Please visit for more information.

Sources for this article include:

FIFA (2004), Women’s Football Today: Information and statistics on women’s football from FIFA member associations. Retrieved from

Colton, M. & Gore, S. (1991), Risk, Resiliency, and Resistance: Current Research on Adolescent Girls. Ms. Foundation for Women.

Legal Aid Society, Fair Play for Girls in Sports.

Women’s Sports Foundation & Coaching Corps (formally Team Up For Youth), The Game Plan: Building effective sports programs for girls

Women’s Sports Foundation, Women’s Sports & Fitness Fact & Statistics

Pate RR, Trost SG, Levin S, Dowda M. (2000), Sports participation and health-related behaviors among US youth. Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine, 154, 904-911.

Staurowsky, E. J., et al (2009), Her Life Depends On It II: Sport, Physical Activity, and the Health and Well-Being of American Girls and Women.