Improving the quality of the sport experience for the participant has typically been accomplished through two main approaches: coach education and use of curriculum (activities and materials). However in our observation and work with a wide range of youth sports programs, we have found an exciting third approach. We have termed it Sport System Re-Design (SSRD).

In many ways, SSRD is not a new concept. There is not a sport that exists that has not gone through some type of re-design since its inception, as we discussed above. Furthermore, elements of SSRD have been central parts of the physical education, adaptive physical education and the sport pedagogy scenes for many decades. In its most basic form, SSRD involves looking at the core elements of the actual sport experience and purposefully altering some element of that experience in order to get a specific desired outcome. While SSRD may work in concert with a curriculum, and certainly would utilize a level of coach training, it is distinct in its methodology. Simply stated, SSRD is the creative and intentional tinkering with one or more parts of the game or sport system to positively impact the outcomes for youth and other participants.

It is exciting for us to know that there are programs, leagues, practitioners and academics who are actively thinking about changing a sport system, specifically to achieve youth development outcomes through sport. We believe we are at the beginning of something important and far-reaching. It’s been validating and invigorating to meet people who are doing work in this area. Some are pure frontline practitioners, such as Street Soccer USA and Magic Bus. Others are major governing bodies of sport, such as as the International Rugby Board/World Ruby and USA Hockey. And others are researches and academics, such as the team of Burton, Gillham and Hammermeister (2011). They have been developing and researching a methodology called Competitive Engineering, which parallels our work in Sport System Re-Design. Their work is particularly important, we think, because of their focus on assessing outcomes. The idea and approach of re-Design becomes more legitimized in the eyes of more people when there are more people writing, researching and talking about it in a rigorous way.

To the many people working on re-Design in their own ways, we hope to be able to use this book as a platform to rally interested parties together. We are at the beginning of something that is becoming a community of practice (Lace & Wenger, 1991), a group of people who share an interest or passion or goal, and who jointly take part in activities around that interest. For some, it may become a legitimate area of research and study. For others, it will be a productive approach to solving problems in their work. It may even spread globally as a movement to advance youth development in sport.


Redesigning Youth Sport CoverThis is an excerpt from “Re-Designing Youth Sport: Changing the Game” a book by Up2Us Sports’ Megan Bartlett and her co-authors John McCarthy from Boston University and Lou Bergholz of Edgework Consulting.  Click here to purchase and use promo code IRK71 to save 20%.