Optimizing volunteer coach development and retention in youth soccer: A case study approach


It is widely acknowledged that youth sport participation is associated with many physical and psychosocial benefits; however, these benefits are contingent upon the availability of qualified coaches to deliver developmentally appropriate programming. The recruitment and retention of coaches remains one of the biggest challenges faced by youth sport organizations (Cuskelly et al., 2006). While many coaches begin as parent volunteers, sport organizations can also develop a sustainable core of volunteers by providing opportunities for adolescent athletes to take part in coaching roles with younger age groups, thereby "giving back" to the next generation (Vierimaa et al., 2017). The present study used a case study approach to explore the motives and experiences of current and prospective coaches within a single youth soccer club. Twelve adult coaches and 11 adolescent athletes took part in semi-structured interviews. Coaches reflected on their coaching experiences and motives, while youth athletes were asked about their playing experiences, future interest in coaching, and preparedness for leadership roles. Interviews were transcribed verbatim and analyzed using reflexive thematic analysis (Braun & Clarke, 2022). Coaches noted that the development of an intrinsic passion for coaching was critical in maintaining their long-term involvement as volunteers. Coaches and athletes also highlighted the importance of a club environment where they felt valued and had explicit opportunities to develop coaching and leadership skills. The findings from this study will be beneficial for youth sport organizations seeking to enhance the personal development of their athletes and improve the capacity and stability of their coaching workforce.

Acknowledgments: This study was supported by a research grant from the Change Lab Action Research Initiative.