2 bicyclists on a country road

Recreation, Sport & Tourism:

Office of Recreation and Park Resources

Illinois Sport Development Initiative

Supporting the Park Districts and Youth Sport Organizations of Illinois

How do we make sport better in Illinois? How do we increase participation in park district programs and youth sport organizations? In September 2015, dozens of Illinois park districts and sports organizations came together at the Illinois Youth Sport Summit to discuss these questions. The result was a whitepaper prepared by the University of Illinois – Reinventing Youth Sport in Illinois. It contained 6 recommendations that were aimed at making the recreation and sport experience more attractive, enjoyable and effective:

  1. Design and Implement Child-Centered Programming (physical literacy, free play, alternative sports)
  2. Educate and Manage Parents (long-term child/athlete development philosophy)
  3. Coach Training (certification systems, recognition, mentorship, elite sport organization support)
  4. Improved Development and Management of Facilities and Resources (play inventories, partnerships)
  5. Promote Participatory Youth Sport Programs (expand sport offering, no sub leagues, mass participation)
  6. Improved Programming for Underserved Populations (disabled, ethnicities, rural communities, inner cities)

Over the past year, we have been developing the research and expertise to activate all of these recommendations. Now we want to offer these services and resources to you. We call it the Illinois Sport Development Initiative and it contains 6 components (click on each item to expand):

1. Online Sport Family Education Modules (Available in March 2019)

Developed for parents who want to make their child's sports experience’s safer, more effective, more enjoyable and beneficial in the long term. Based on research developed at the University of Illinois and select other sources, these educational modules provide cutting-edge information. These modules are offered directly to the parents and coaches by having them register with the ISDI annually. Park Districts and youth sport organizations receive subsidies to support the costs of promotion and access to the modules. We will be offering 6 modules to start with and new modules will be added monthly. Each module contains

  1. A 5-minute narrated animated whiteboard video
  2. A description of the topic and explanation of why it is a key element in children's athletic participation and success. This will include references to the scientific research they are based on.
  3. Specific recommendations that the parent/coach/administrator can implement with their child.
  4. Resources such as checklists, detailed instructional manuals that parents can use.
  5. Review and understanding evaluations.

    Initial Topics include:

    • Physical Literacy
    • Free Play / Leadership / Creativity
    • Multi-Sport Sampling
    • Developmentally Appropriate Sports and Activities
    • Neural Development Optimization
    • Deliberate Practice / Play
    • Coaching and Refereeing Preparation and Development
    • Parent Participation and Role Modelling
    • Competitive Local Leagues Benefits

2. Athlete Development Presentations and Workshops

Based on the research done for the creation of the Online SportFamily Education Modules these presentations provide parents with a first hand, interactive educational experience presented by the top researchers and practitioners in sport development. Park Districts and youth sport organizations receive subsidies to support the costs of promotion and access to the modules. These sessions take place at your facilities, and can be tailored for the exact number, level, and interests of the participants, and can range from 2 hours to full days. Included in the sessions are:

  1. Multi-media lectures
  2. Group activities and discussions
  3. Resources and tools for immediate use and application
  4. Recommendations for further learning
  5. Discounts for subscribing to the Online SportFamily Education Modules
  6. Organization of “communities of excellence” for on-going support and feedback

3. Participant and Member Needs Survey

Using the Department of Recreation, Sports and Tourism (RST) Qualtrics software to query those participating in youth sport programs (both children and parents) about their perceptions of the programs and their ideas for new programming. The resulting report will provide the Park District or youth sport organization with insight into what their members really want and how it should be prioritized in their planning and budgeting.

4. Facility and Programming Inventory

This service evaluates and identifies opportunities for new facilities and enhanced recreational programming. This will also include an evaluation of private and adjacent community facilities to provide a comprehensive assessment of the recreation and sport environment of the area.

5. Participant Programming Enhancement Report

Uses the Facility and Programming Inventory in conjunction with the Participant and Member Needs Survey to provide the park district with a powerful tool to chart future decisions and expenditures. Special emphasis is placed on attracting new participants from underserved populations and expanding the use of Park District programs by existing members.

6. Coach Training and Certification Evaluation

Provides analysis and recommendations aimed at ensuring that the park district or youth sport organization volunteer coach education programs are comprehensive, effective, economical and appropriate. By making use of the ISDI staffs extensive training, research and experience in working with Olympic and national governing body organizations, state high school associations and numerous youth sport organizations and their programs we can ensure the park district or youth sport organization delivers top quality training to their coaches.

Park Districts and youth sport organizations can select those elements of the ISDI that meet their needs and work with the Recreation, Sport and Tourism Department’s Office of Recreation and Park to plan and schedule the delivery and implementation of the services and resources to their community and members. Because of the scope and breadth of the RST Department we can organize the study teams to ensure that the project is done in the most economical and effective manner possible. Contact Laura Payne, Interim Director ORPR, at lpayne@illinois.edu to learn more about the ISDI, and the services and resources it offers.