UpMetrics Attends 2019 Urban Soccer Symposium, Focusing on Sports-Based Youth Development
By Bryan Kitch
The U.S. Soccer Foundation held its annual Urban Soccer Symposium in Washington, D.C., and for the second year in a row, UpMetrics was in attendance. The conference focuses on the power of soccer—and sports in general—to provide transformative experiences for youth in the United States. And, as usual, the list of attendees was impressive, and the presenters compelling in this growing space.
“The conference is bigger than just sports-based youth development for soccer—it goes beyond that,” says Director of Client Services, Stephen Minix. “And I thought that the conversations this year were more intellectual, in the sense that people were getting beyond the surface of running a soccer program—there were conversations about logic models, about social and emotional learning, about intentionally planning your program to get the outcomes you desire. Those were the main things I took away from it—even from last year to this year, the conversation has evolved.”
He continues: “It wasn’t about data for data’s sake. It was about intentionally building a program that gets you what you want as an outcome, and data plays a role in that—an important role. But it sort of reframes the approach, where the focus has been less on program design. In the past, it has felt more like people were in search of data to validate existing programming. Now, they’re saying, what are my goals? Ok, let’s use data to help build a program that produces those outcomes.”
"It wasn't about data for data's sake. It was about intentionally building a program that gets you what you want as an outcome, and data plays a role in that—an important role."
That approach came to characterize the event, as more and more organizations and providers have begun the harness the power of data to better serve their participants. “Seeing how heavy the conference was on data, on information, on social and emotional learning—it tells you that it’s going beyond skills and drills.”
“One of the best panels I attended was called ‘Impact Investors: What Motivates Individual Philanthropists to Give,’ which featured Aranthan ‘AJ’ Jones II, of Burson Cohn & Wolfe," Minix says. "He offered a list of five things that he asks before investing in something.
“‘First, do we get the narrative of the organization? What is it, and how is it reflected across all your programming?’ That’s something that really resonated from the perspective of storytelling,” explains Minix.
“Second, how well do you connect people to programming, and programming to people? In other words, how responsive are you to your participants? Three—he says they usually give three- to five-year grants, and sometimes up to 10 years, because they want these organizations to have long-term engagement. But they won’t invest in an organization unless it has a theory of change, and can walk Jones & his associates through why the org deserves the investment.
“Four, how much care does the organization put into reporting? For Jones, it comes down to having anecdotes backed by measurement. And five, how do you collateralize that information? How do you get the information out into the world?”
The bottom line? Organization administrators need to have a professional approach, and a theory of change, before they can expect long-term investment, which can make the difference between sustainable, scalable impact, or running out of funding.
“That room was packed," Minix says.
Learn more about the U.S. Soccer Foundation's Urban Soccer Symposium via their official website.