Below are top ten things to consider when creating community programs and building community relationships. Keep them in mind as you begin to grow your youth soccer community.
Top Ten Things to Consider in Developing Your Youth Soccer Program
- Understand your larger community. By knowing the needs of your community you can tailor your program to fit. For example, is obesity an issue? Gang violence? education? Linguistic differences? Understanding the make-up of your community can help you develop a program that creates meaningful and sustainable impact.
- Connect with your larger community. Create materials that explain your program, your goals and the details of your program in all target languages. Cold call or make local visits to build relationships with key community leaders and potential players – connecting with them where they are.
- Use your internal community. Explore the expertise that you already have within your organization. Do you have a Board Member who also volunteers at the local food shelter? A father who is a local police officer? Ask them questions about the needs in the community and influential leaders to connect to.
- Be flexible. The more flexible you can be within your program, the more opportunities you will create. Creating a one-size fits all program will limit the ability of groups to participate. Structure comes in your daily, weekly or monthly program by ensuring the same lessons are taught, the same coaches are available and the same goals are promoted.
- Know your audience. What issues may your players have or face that create a barrier for them to participate or that they may bring onto the field? Try to anticipate the possible environments that your players come from, train your coaches on best practices and then, play the game.
- Keep it fun. When you create a program or host an event, keep it focused on fun and play to spark initial interest.The goal is to leverage the sport of soccer. If you are still unsure of where to start or what the needs are, host a tournament or a pick-up game and just get the kids on the field! The game will speak for itself.
- Build your relationships. Once you have established a relationship with a person or an organization in a community, spend time fostering and building the relationship. You never know what opportunities or information they may have in the future.Create a two-way relationship. Invite local groups to participate in your events as sponsors, participants, or as a community partner in addition to providing them programs and soccer educational opportunities.
- Create and follow a Risk Management Procedure. You want to make sure that your kids are safe and that your coaches are responsible mentors for your community. Create and follow a risk management procedure to ensure that your environment is as safe, fun and secure as possible.
- Develop an M&E system. If you have certain outcomes that you want to see tracked, take time to think through and develop an M&E system. This system can be as simple as attendance and a pre/post survey or as in-depth as BMI testing, weight, height and test score tracking. Your system will depend on your organization capacity, but even the most simple system is better than no system!
- Think of scale. Is the program you are building able to be replicated or reproduced down the road? Are you connecting all possible pieces and local community experts to leverage your impact? By building a program that can scale and taking measurements, you can find more funding, create sustainable impact and reach more youth.
These ten tips may seem simple to some, but are important to ensuring that your program meets the needs of the community, has community buy-in, possibilities to scale and a safe, measurable environment.
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