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Professional Philosophy

Since 2016, I have aimed to solve some of the most troubling issues surrounding youth sports through my association with Full Armour Sports Teams. 

While so many issues presented in the youth sports field have attempted to be solved by simple surface solutions, the real problems troubling many of our youth in today’s culture are not merely solved with a primary goal of improving performance. To get to the heart of empowering positive youth development requires that performance become an outcome not of training philosophy, but rather an outcome of an intense desire in our youth to succeed fostered not by a coach, but by the environment that we as coaches provide scaffold. 

Every program that I have launched has focused on providing year-round opportunities for kids to participate, and we make sure the participation does not end when a child walks off the field. Team activities, retreats and volunteer opportunities are critical for the success of our programs. Zarrett et al. (2005), found that youth only benefit from a positive youth development perspective if sport participation is intense and lasts longer than a year. We have found the same results as Zarrett and thus offer programs year-round and training opportunities as many as 6 days a week in most sports.

Creating a faith based, kingdom-focused youth sports program has required that I reframe my philosophy since my early days of coaching. We compete and train with the knowledge that our athletes are competing for God’s glory. We strive to teach our athletes that sport is a platform, the way that we conduct ourselves on and off the field and in and out of the pool is a reflection of who we are and whom we serve. As an organization, our primary goal is to impact as many youth as possible in the communities we serve. To me, “impact” means providing an opportunity for every kid to find personal success and in turn to become more self-confident, able to overcome adversity, and learn what it means to be an integral part of a team, not just through athletic contribution, but through their presence. 

 

The execution of such programming only occurs through a Three-pronged approach of core principles that include: (1) culture setting, (2) individualization and (3) removing barriers to entry.

 "'Impact' means providing an opportunity for every kid to find personal success and in turn to become more self-confident, able to overcome adversity, and learn what it means to be an integral part of a team, not just through athletic contribution, but through their presence." 

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Culture

Our culture is the cornerstone of everything we do, it is what attracts families to our program and it is what helps us retain youth in our programs for as long as they do. We strongly believe that culture is to our leaders like training is to our athletes; it is the result of what we work to achieve. A strong culture is trained and built, not merely the happenstance of what happens when we put 50 people in a room. Our culture is molded by the buy-in of our athletes to a code in which we conduct ourselves, purposeful team building and modeling by our staff and volunteers.

The culture we have, moves away from the modern day me-centric culture of the sporting world, in which athletes shift teams yearly searching for the best opportunities to get noticed by scouts to a culture in which athletes are committed to one another, growing together sharing in the rollercoaster of emotions from success to failure and working through such pivotal times in each other’s lives. In our culture, coaches and staff model the behavior we wish to see in our athletes, they have fun, love the youth we serve and encourage those around them. Through servant leadership they show our youth what it means to serve others, just as our ultimate coach, our Lord and Savior has done for us. Our coaches model the attitudes and behaviors they wish to see and push athletes to follow them into commitment, dedication, desire, discipline and excellence (Russell & Stone, 2002).

Individualization

While we focus on developing a strong culture, we also understand that each part makes up the whole. Too often in the sports world we evaluate future performance potential based on what is showcased today. Full Armour Sports Teams understands that each child is in different stages of psychological and physiological development that cannot necessarily be predicted by chronological age (Balyi & Way, 2001) . It is not uncommon to value youth who are more physically developed because of their present athletic ability rather than a kid who is behind developmentally, or who may be referred to as a “late bloomer.” This may lead to an approach where the focus is on the greatest talent at a particular age which often takes the form of an “early bloomer” or “average developer.” This approach may be great for achieving a single season result, but does little for athlete or youth development. Moreover, future athletic success cannot be predicted at a young age and as “late bloomer” catch up, they have the potential to be just as successful if not more that those “early bloomer” (Simonton, 2001).

 

As an organization, we strive to provide high quality coaching to all youth, regardless of their perceived talent at a singular point in their life. Through individualized coaching and meeting youth at their current level of sports competence, we can allow all athletes to achieve personal excellence. This shift in methodology has allowed us to create a feeder system within our programs and bridge the gap between recreation programs that offer inconsistent coaching and minimal athlete development and club sports programs which often look for athletes who already have elite-level talent. 

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"Full Armour Sports Teams is dedicated to removing these barriers by making sure that athletes are never turned away due to financial difficulties or lack of athleticism."

Barriers To Entry

Lastly, one of the largest problems facing the world of youth sports is the increasing barriers to entry. Elite club programs are costly, with some sports and programs costing $5000 and up to participate per season. This high cost leaves potential great athletes from lower socioeconomic areas unable to participate. Moreover as previously discussed, many programs are looking for athletes who already have the aptitude to play or compete, and do not provide developmental programs to create self-efficacy and game awareness and physical development, which leaves a large portion of youth underserved.

Full Armour Sports Teams is dedicated to removing these barriers by making sure that athletes are never turned away due to financial difficulties or lack of athleticism. By creating programs that traverse the spectrum from introductory knowledge to elite, high-performance teams, we  develop any athlete and move them up our performance pipeline.

Conclusion

I strongly believe that if we focus on these three core principles that great athletic achievement will be born out of our hard work, intentionally programming focus, and a desire to change  the way that youth sports programs are run. We believe that athletic achievement results when youth are engaged, when they work towards a common goal with one another and through service, not obtained as a result of strictly what we provide in training. If we create a place youth want to be, they will train harder than anyone else.  At the end of the day, performance times and achievements will fade, trophies will collect dust, but the lessons our youth have learned, their resilience and the bonds they have created with their teammates, will outlast their name on a scoreboard.

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References

Balyi, I., & Way, R. (2001). The role of monitoring growth in long-term athlete development. Unpublished manuscript. Retrieved 4/15/16, Retrieved from http://canadiansportforlife.ca/sites/default/files/resources/MonitoringGrowth%281%29.pdf

Russell, R., & Stone, G. (2002). A review of servant leadership attributes: Developing a practical model. Leadership & Organization Development Journal, 23(3), 145-157. 

Simonton, D. K. (2001). Talent development as a multidimensional, multiplicative, and dynamic process. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 10(2), 39-43. 

Zarrett, N., Lerner, R. M., Carrano, J., Fay, K., Peltz, J. S., & Li, Y. (2008). Variations in adolescent engagement in sports and its influence on positive youth development. Positive youth development through sport, 9-23.

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