Football Canada is the national governing body for all Canadian amateur football. In partnership with each of the provincial football associations, they are responsible for overseeing the football experience for 12,000+ coaches and 110,000+ football players to ensure their sport remains a safe and enjoyable experience for all Canadian citizens. In order to do this, they work directly with their provincial member associations to provide various levels of support to local football league administrators, coaches and teams.
Football Canada completed a competition review and released the results in 2016. The competition review determined that considerable changes needed to be made regarding how football was being delivered at multiple levels in order to re-align their sport with the Canadian long-term athlete development (LTAD) model framework.
The director of sport for Football Canada, Aaron Geisler, was responsible for leading this transition. In addition to this, Aaron was heavily involved in his community football programs as a volunteer coach. After two years of Football Canada investing in the creation of new programming, support resources, and coaching education, Aaron could tell their work was not getting through to the grassroots level at all. Youth leagues and programs were continuing to run the same way they had been for years. If Football Canada truly wanted to achieve their goals and mandates set out in their competition review, they needed a more innovative way to deliver their programming, support resources, and coaching development.
WHAT DID THEY TRY?
Football Canada was using a variety of different tools to create and distribute their content but quickly realized that the hard work they were putting into these resources was not getting the reach that they desired.
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Making PDF documents, video tutorials and spreadsheets of information took a lot of valuable time and effort. Although making these resources available to help support grassroots coaches is a must, This meant that if anything needed to be changed or new information needed to be made available to grassroots coaches, the organization had to start from scratch. This made the content susceptible to becoming outdated and made it difficult to stay up to date with the recommendations made by the updated LTAD model.
MULTIPLE DISTRIBUTION CHANNELS
Resources were shared with association administrators through private Dropbox folders, video-based content was being uploaded and shared through the Football Canada YouTube channel, online coach training courses were being delivered through a combination of their own online e-learning platform and courses offered in a variety of formats through the Canadian National Coaching Certification Pathway (NCCP). Lastly, rulebooks were still being distributed in printed textbook format. This fragmented distribution of resources and information created several issues. For coaches, it was becoming difficult and confusing to navigate the various forms of resources to find what they needed! This was leaving them frustrated and unlikely to continue utilizing the resources at all. For administrators, it was becoming difficult to effectively communicate the information about the various resources with coaches and parents involved in their league. As a result, it just created further confusion regarding program and coaching education changes recommended by Football Canada.
ATHLETE ERA COACHING PLATFORM
Athlete Era proposed that if Football Canada implemented a mobile coaching app using the Athlete Era platform, it could address several of the challenges they were facing in regards to creating, modifying and updating a variety of new educational content while simultaneously improving the distribution of this content to administrators, coaches and parents. This would provide them with a pathway to easily keep content up-to-date and ensure their educational resources were being utilized by their target audience, helping drive the adoption of their new football standards at the youth level.
HOW THE APP WAS IMPLEMENTED
The transition to the mobile lapp took a three-pronged approach.
The first step was to review and reformat existing content so it fits within the current content management structure. Athlete Era took a lead role in helping Football Canada input their content into AE Connect while also educating those who were making the content how efficient the system can be. The ability to easily manage, modify, and create new content would help eliminate the need to start from scratch every time they wanted to make changes or update their current resources. This allowed coaches to receive the most up-to-date information being put out by Football Canada.
The second step was planning a promotion strategy to get coaches using the app. Athlete Era supported the promotion of the resource to the provincial associations and league administrators. This was done by providing a basic website to communicate the new mobile learning app with administrators and coaches, along with a pre-designed coaches presentation that administrators could use to implement the mobile learning resource in their league. The resource was promoted through a presentation at the Football Canada member AGM, email campaigns to coaches and administrators, and in-person to coaches during their league coaching orientation meeting before the season started.
The last step was releasing the app! This new app allowed coaches to conveniently filter all content to only get what they needed and have all information accessible whether at home, in the parking lot 10-minutes before practice, or on the field during practice. Athlete Era continued to provide in-season support through content management and call support for provincial associations looking for additional support when implementing the new mobile learning app. The new mobile learning app was promoted nationally by Football Canada and Athlete Era in 2019. In the first year, the app was adopted by five of the ten provincial football associations who began the transition towards implementing this new digital resource to improve the quality of all football leagues and programs within their provinces.
WHAT WERE THE RESULTS?
After the initial season in 2019, the results were incredible! Some stand-o ut organizations Included Saskatoon Minor Football (SMF) and Regina Youth Flag Football League (RYFFL). Here is what they saw after implementing the mobile learning app in the spring of 2019.
RYFFL had 122 of their 125 novice coaches (0-2 years coaching experience) access the resource during the season, seeing on average 43% of these coaches use the app weekly
SMF reported that the mobile app had allowed them to decrease their volunteer coaching shortage by 29% within one year of implementing the resource.
Implementing a mobile solution to providing coaching support to grassroots coaches proved to be a huge success across the country. Coaches across the country are now able to access the most up-to-date knowledge put out by Football Canada to help continue growing the game of football.
FEEDBACK FROM COACHES
I had a comment from a parent that they thought I had coached football for years because of how we ran the practice when in reality this is my first year. - Wayne F.
This app is awesome! It is easy to use and helpful for starting coaches. - Jessica V.
The app helped me out with being more prepared. It gave me more confidence having a drawn-out plan for what I was going to set up at practice each week - Shannon C.
Great tool for practices and drills. I liked having the practice plans ready for me. Having the app made them very accessible. Chris P.
The practice plans were handy to help with player progression. - Evan S.
Convenient to have all resources in one place. Robert T.
Was great to be able to access resources from an app where everything was available in one spot vs. sorting through multiple links on the internet - Rob F.
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