Evaluating the Impact of Soccer for Success: A Free After-School Program for Underserved Communities

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Introduction

Soccer for Success is an after-school program offered free to participants that is proven to help kids establish healthy habits and develop critical life skills through trained coach-mentors and community engagement. The program provides children in underserved communities with free access to quality soccer programming, safe places to play, and caring coach-mentors who are trained to help transform young lives [2],[3]. The Soccer for Success School Curriculum provides a turnkey way for educators to teach the fundamentals of soccer while integrating activities that empower students to establish life-long healthy habits and improve their physical and health literacy; helping to improve knowledge about physical health helps with understanding about physical attributes such as, strength, agility, etc. and health literacy, in the sense of helping to understand the implication of obesity, what BMI is, weight loss, weight gain and other health problems that might be caused by obesity or from other health issues. [1].

Organization

The U.S. Soccer Foundation is a non-profit organization that provides underserved communities access to innovative play spaces and evidence-based soccer programs that instill hope, foster well-being, and help youth achieve their full potential. They view soccer as a powerful vehicle for social change.

Program Description

Soccer for Success is an after-school program offered free to participants that has proven to help kids establish healthy habits and develop critical life skills through trained coach-mentors and community engagement. The most critical part of a child’s day begins after the final bell rings. Soccer for Success is an after-school program, offered free to participants, that has been proven to help kids establish healthy habits and develop critical life skills through trained coach-mentors and community engagement [1].

Evaluation Questions

Below is a list of potential evaluation questions that I would ask regarding this program. I would like to gather evidence by asking some questions that are related to quantitative data collection.

What is the impact of Soccer for Success on children’s:

  1. Physical activity levels?
  2. Dietary habits?
  3. BMI?
  4. Waist circumference?
  5. PACER scores?
  6. Teamwork skills?
  7. Self-esteem?
  8. Social skills?
  9. Academic performance?

Most of the questions above are quantitative and can be used as statical evidence when finalizing the results for the report. Other questions are subjective and non-quantitative; hence it will require to create a bridge between the numbers and the abstract to create a story telling moment.

Evaluation Design

The evaluation of Soccer for Success was conducted in two phases. First, an independent implementation evaluation was conducted in 2012 that focused on program operations. Next, an independent impact evaluation was conducted during 2013 and 2014 and consisted of a one-year, nonexperimental research design study [4]. The non-experimental research study compared the change in health among Soccer for Success participants and non-participants from the same communities [2]. The study focused on three core health indicators for the evaluation: body mass index (BMI) percentile categories, waist circumference and aerobic capacity/fitness [4]. The study found that Soccer for Success participants showed greater improvement towards healthy BMI and waist circumference categories than participants in other similar programs in the same neighborhoods; and greater improvement in aerobic capacity compared to participants in similar programs [4].

Data Collection

The program uses soccer as a tool to combat obesity, promote healthy eating and exercise habits, and foster positive youth development. When looking at the three core health indicators, Soccer for Success participants showed greater improvement towards healthy BMI and waist circumference categories than participants in other similar programs in the same neighborhoods; and greater improvement in aerobic capacity compared to participants in similar programs. The study also found that Soccer for Success was implemented as designed (i.e., with fidelity) across the sites studied; and had statistically significant and consistent results across different locations, genders, and socioeconomic backgrounds supporting the conclusion that if the program were replicated with fidelity in other urban communities, similar results would be likely [5].

Data Analysis

Previous evaluation consisted of a one-year nonexperimental research design involving 16 randomly assigned interventions and 14 control sites located in five cities, spread throughout the United States. The primary obesity-related outcome measures for these evaluations were age- and gender-specific BMI percentile, waist circumference, and the Progressive Aerobic Cardiovascular Endurance Run (PACER) fitness test (completed laps) to gauge aerobic capacity/fitness.

Reporting and Dissemination

There are a few evaluations that have been completed in relation to the program, one which is “SOCCER FOR SUCCESS Independent Evaluation of Program Impact 2013-2014″ conducted by Dr. Danielle Hollar and Zach Riggle. The report describes the evaluation of the Soccer for Success program by the U.S. Soccer Foundation during the 2013-2014 academic year [12]. The report includes a section on “Reporting and Dissemination” which states that the results will be disseminated through various channels including peer-reviewed publications, presentations at conferences and meetings, and reports to funders and stakeholders. The report also states that the U.S. Soccer Foundation will work with its partners to disseminate the results to a broader audience through social media, press releases, and other communication channels. I believe if I were to conduct the following evaluation I would use similar techniques.

Purpose

The U.S. Soccer Foundation conducted a nationwide independent evaluation of their nationally recognized afterschool program, Soccer for Success, and the youth development and mentorship impact of the program on kids who participate. This evaluation measured the life skills development among participants and their relationships with coach-mentors [6]. The study determined that Soccer for Success is an effective group mentoring program, and meets the key benchmarks outlined by MENTOR! The evaluation was conducted by American Institutes for Research (AIR) and found that Soccer for Success helped most participants work better on a team, stay away from anti-social behavior, and try harder in school [6].

What is MENTOR and why it is relevant to soccer for success program? MENTOR: The National Mentoring Partnership is the leader and unifying champion in the mentoring movement. MENTOR engages with the private, public, and non-profit sector to expand quality youth mentoring opportunities in the United States. Their mission is to fuel the quality and quantity of mentoring relationships for America’s young people and to close the mentoring gap for the one in three young people growing up without this critical support[29].

Evidence-Based

Because of the results found by the American Institutes for Research (AIR) the U.S. Soccer Foundation will expand its evidence- and sports-based group mentoring program, Soccer for Success, in 224 sites in 12 states. It will match 10,150 at-risk and high-risk youth with a trained coach-mentor at least three times a week for 75 to 90 minutes per session [8].

The Overall Goal(s) of The Program

As stated, according to the U.S. Soccer Foundation, Soccer for Success is an after-school program that is offered free to participants and is proven to help kids establish healthy habits and develop critical life skills through trained coach-mentors and community engagement. The program aims to replicate the positive health and youth development outcomes achieved through that program and positively impact more kids by reaching them where they are in schools.

Between the evaluation conducted by American Institutes for Research (AIR) and findings based on a 2014 Healthy Networks Design & Research (HNDR) evaluation, Soccer for Success was found to be an effective group mentoring program that meets the key benchmarks outlined by MENTOR! and demonstrates that Soccer for Success improves the health and youth development outcomes of the kids. It serves and shows the positive impact of the group-mentoring model.

The mentoring study was supported by Grant No. 2013-JU-FX-0027 awarded by the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, Office of Justice Programs, U.S. Department of Justice. Points of view or opinions in this document are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the official position or polices of the U.S. Department of Justice [28].

The grant awarded to the U.S. Soccer Federation Foundation, Inc. supported a mentoring study that evaluated the effectiveness of the sports-based youth mentoring program, Soccer for Success, in deterring youth from engaging or re-engaging in delinquent behavior. The program matches at-risk boys and girls with trained adult mentors and partners with community-based organizations to engage youth in formal mentoring relationships. The program aims to increase family engagement, deter delinquent behavior, and improve attitudes toward schools.

The Soccer for Success program advances the foundation’s mission through free afterschool soccer programming that serves children in grades K-8 in underserved urban communities. It represents an innovative approach to leveraging the appeal and growing popularity of youth soccer toward national efforts to reduce childhood obesity. Participating children enjoy learning and improving soccer skills in a low-pressure environment that differs from traditional competitive soccer leagues while also learning about healthy dietary and exercise habits. Consequently, participants increase levels of physical activity and important nutrition-related concepts which lead to improved physical fitness and reduced obesity [3].

Intended Outcomes and Performance Measures

This evaluation measured the life skills development among participants and their relationships with coach-mentors [6]. As a grantee of the Social Innovation Fund, the U.S. Soccer Foundation engaged an independent evaluator to conduct an evaluation of Soccer for Success. The study focused on three core health indicators for the evaluation: BMI percentile categories, waist circumference and aerobic capacity/fitness.

Activities/Technologies of the Program

The program runs on five major components [1]:

  1. physical activity
  2. health & wellness
  3. mentorship
  4. community engagement
  5. safe spaces

Kids attend Soccer for Success after school three times a week throughout the academic year. Participants learn about eating right and other ways to stay healthy, and they gain important decision-making and relationship skills from their interactions with coach-mentors and peers.

The U.S. Soccer Foundation’s Soccer for Success program is a sports-based youth development program that serves children in grades K to 8 in underserved, urban communities. The program uses soccer as a tool to combat obesity, promote healthy eating and exercise habits, and foster positive youth development. The program consists of soccer activities that incorporate nutritional lessons for 90 minutes per day, three days a week, for 24 weeks during the school year. Adult coaches undergo extensive training to be mentors and educators for the youth.

Staffing

According to Glassdoor.com, Soccer Success has roughly 50 employees and is also run with the help of volunteers that participate as mentors as part of the program.

Methodology

Measuring Success is the U.S. Soccer Foundation’s current evaluation partner, helping to maximize Soccer for Success measurement, data collection, and research efforts to move the needle on youth development and healthy living [9].

Reporting and Communication Plan for presenting results and recommendations to various stakeholders

A stakeholder engagement plan (SEP) documents the involvement and influence of your project’s stakeholders. It also outlines how you plan to communicate with stakeholders. A stakeholder engagement plan template helps you outline who your stakeholders are, their influence and interest levels, and your communication strategy. Stakeholders can either be individuals from within your team or external parties that are impacted by your work. Stakeholder engagement plans differ based on what team and stakeholder priorities. Stakeholder mapping offers you some guidance on how to communicate with stakeholders based on their level of influence and interest. Using these grid points, your next step is to create a custom communication plan [10].

Utilization and Action Plan

I can suggest some potential barriers and plans for addressing them. Some potential barriers include a lack of: resources, support from stakeholders, understanding of the evaluation results, and lack of motivation to act on the evaluation results. To address these barriers, its important to involve stakeholders in the evaluation process, communicate the evaluation results effectively, provide training and technical assistance to support action planning, and establish a culture of continuous improvement [11].

Budget and Justification

I found that the U.S. Soccer Foundation is the national model for sports-based youth development in underserved communities. Since its founding in 1994, the Foundation has established programs proven to help children embrace an active and healthy lifestyle while nurturing their personal growth beyond sports. Its cost-effective, high-impact initiatives offer safe environments where kids and communities thrive. The Foundation has awarded over $100 million in financial support to soccer organizations and field-building initiatives nationwide.

Conclusion

In conclusion, based on previous studies and evaluations of the Soccer for Success program, as well as my own techniques for conducting an evidence-based evaluation plan, I have determined that the School Curriculum effectively teaches the fundamentals of soccer while also incorporating activities that encourage students to develop healthy habits and improve their physical health. By enhancing students’ knowledge of physical health, the program helps them understand important physical attributes such as strength and agility, as well as health literacy concepts like obesity, BMI, weight loss and gain, and other health issues that may be directly or indirectly related to obesity.

List of References

[1] Soccer for Success – U.S. Soccer Foundation. https://ussoccerfoundation.org/programs/soccer-for-success/ Accessed 5/19/2023.

[2] Careers – U.S. Soccer Foundation. https://ussoccerfoundation.org/about/careers/ Accessed 5/19/2023.

[3] Soccer for Success for Schools – U.S. Soccer Foundation. https://ussoccerfoundation.org/school/ Accessed 5/19/2023.

[4]  Evaluation Report Brief: US Soccer Foundation: Soccer for Success. https://americorps.gov/sites/default/files/evidenceexchange/RB_US%20Soccer_SoccerforSuccess_1.pdf Accessed 5/22/2023.

[5] Data Collection and Statistics | Coaching American Soccer. https://coachingamericansoccer.com/administration/data-collection-and-statistics/ Accessed 5/22/2023.

[6] Evaluation – U.S. Soccer Foundation. https://ussoccerfoundation.org/impact/evaluation/ Accessed 5/23/2023.

[7] Soccer for Success – Washington Youth Soccer. https://washingtonyouthsoccer.org/about-us/foundation/soccer-for-success/ Accessed 5/23/2023.

[8] Soccer for Success- An Evidence and Sports Based Group Mentoring …. https://ojjdp.ojp.gov/funding/awards/2018-ju-fx-0037 Accessed 5/23/2023.

[9] HNDR Health-Focused – U.S. Soccer Foundation. https://ussoccerfoundation.org/uploads/blocks/Soccer%20for%20Success%20Evaluation%20Overview_2.pdf Accessed 5/24/2023.

[10] Section 6. Participatory Evaluation – Community Toolbox. https://ctb.ku.edu/en/table-of-contents/evaluate/evaluation/participatory-evaluation/main Accessed 5/24/2023.

[11] 7 Strategies to Improve Evaluation Use and Influence – Part 1. https://www.betterevaluation.org/blog/7-strategies-improve-evaluation-use-influence-part-1 Accessed 5/24/2023.

[12] Soccer for Success: Independent Evaluation of Program … – AmeriCorps. https://americorps.gov/evidence-exchange/Soccer-for-Success%3A-Independent-Evaluation-of-Program-Impact-2013-2014 Accessed 5/24/2023.

[13] U.S. Soccer Foundation and U.S. Youth Soccer Team Up to Launch In …. https://www.usyouthsoccer.org/us-soccer-foundation-and-us-youth-soccer-launch-in-school-soccer-program/ Accessed 5/25/2023.

[14] Soccer – Detroit PAL. https://detroitpal.org/athletic-programs/soccer/ Accessed 5/22/2023.

[15] Soccer for Success Impact Study Issue Brief – SlideShare. https://www.slideshare.net/DanielleHollar/soccer-for-success-impact-studyissue-brief Accessed 5/25/2023.

[16] A public data set of spatio-temporal match events in soccer …. https://www.nature.com/articles/s41597-019-0247-7 Accessed 5/25/2023.

[17] Data Analytics in Football – Positional Data Collection, Modelling and …. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/328073308_Data_Analytics_in_Football_-_Positional_Data_Collection_Modelling_and_Analysis Accessed 5/22/2023.

[18] Sheriff PAL Launches Soccer for Success Program, Presented by CNS …. https://sheriffpal.com/news/sheriff-pal-launches-soccer-for-success-program-presented-by-cns-healthcare/ Accessed 5/23/2023.

[19] Mission – U.S. Soccer Foundation. https://ussoccerfoundation.org/about/mission/ Accessed 5/23/2023.

[20] Sports Physical Therapy Residency Program – St. Louis Children’s Hospital. https://www.stlouischildrens.org/conditions-treatments/young-athlete-center/sports-physical-therapy-residency-program Accessed 5/23/2023.

[21] A Better Youth Soccer Evaluation Form » Work-Learning Research. https://www.worklearning.com/2012/09/26/a-better-youth-soccer-evaluation-form/ Accessed 5/23/2023.

[22] Program Evaluation for Evidence Based Practice – Grand Valley State …. https://www.gvsu.edu/cms4/asset/C24BBCB5-0764-8C9D-91A4F27171E91560/program_evaluation_for_evidence_based_practice.pdf Accessed 5/23/2023.

[23] Plan for Program Evaluation from the Start – National Institute of Justice. https://nij.ojp.gov/topics/articles/plan-program-evaluation-start Accessed 5/23/2023.

[24] Evaluation Plan Template – Institute of Education Sciences. https://ies.ed.gov/ncee/projects/pdf/evaluationplantemplate.pdf Accessed 5/23/2023.

[25] Evaluation Planning: What is It and How Do You Do It?. https://www.cdc.gov/healthcommunication/pdf/evaluationplanning.pdf Accessed 5/22/2023.

[26] Evaluation Reporting: A Guide to Help Ensure Use of Evaluation Findings. https://www.cdc.gov/dhdsp/docs/Evaluation_Reporting_Guide.pdf Accessed 5/22/2023.

[27] Post-Eval Action Plan Week: Enhance Utilization with Post-evaluation …. https://aea365.org/blog/post-eval-action-plan-week-enhance-utilization-with-post-evaluation-action-planning-by-kylie-hutchinson/ Accessed 5/22/2023.

[28] Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention. (n.d.). Soccer for Success- An Effective Sports-based Group Mentoring Program for At-risk Youth. U.S. Department of Justice. Retrieved from https://ojjdp.ojp.gov/funding/awards/2013-ju-fx-0027 Accessed 5/23/2023.

[29] About Us: Who We Are. Mission and Vision | Mentor. https://www.mentoring.org/who-we-are/mission-vision/ Accessed 5/28/2023.

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