Urban Initiatives (UI) provides evidence-based and outcome-driven programming to over 17,000 students across Chicago, and evidence shows that high quality implementation is a huge driver of positive outcomes. Because of this, all Urban Initiatives coaches receive regular training to ensure that our participants are receiving the highest quality programming possible.
In March, Urban Initiatives hosted two spring training sessions on the south and west sides. These trainings kick off our spring seasons and provide an opportunity for our Work to Play soccer coaches to come together, share best practices, and learn updates to the curriculum. During this year’s spring training , coaches learned about continuous quality improvement (CQI), our Diversity, Equity and Inclusion priorities, and learned new strategies for adapting games to meet participants’ needs.
In the CQI session, coaches learned what CQI is and how to utilize its principles in programming. CQI is a cyclical process of problem solving activities that requires the deliberate use of evidence, and UI uses CQI to continuously improve its program quality during the season. Essential to the CQI approach is the idea of iteratively implementing a “small test of change” to address a problem, observing its impact, and determining whether to adopt, adapt, or discontinue the approach. Coaches practiced CQI during the training using sample program data. For example, if a school had a low program attendance rate, coaches offered interpretations of why the attendance rate might be low and brainstormed small tests of change they could use to try increasing attendance. Coaches also had the opportunity to practice hands-on small tests of change using an activity generously lent to UI by Thrive Chicago! Urban Initiatives believes in an organizational-wide data culture that includes all members of the team to improve programs and outcomes, and we are excited for our coaches to be actively involved in ongoing conversations about program quality and improvement.
Coaches also learned more about our Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion priorities as they relate to programming. Urban Initiatives is making a concerted effort to ensure our programming is inclusive for students of all gender identities and is actively taking steps to eliminate practices like dividing students by gender for games or lining up by gender. Additionally, coaches were encouraged to talk to their participants about leaders that embody Urban Initiatives’ values and demonstrate the lessons from our leadership development program- including civil rights activists, women’s empowerment advocates, and others that work toward anti-racist and anti-oppressive transformation throughout the city of Chicago and nationwide. Urban Initiatives is proud to make space for continued learning about our Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion efforts and recognizes that ongoing work in this area is paramount for continued movement towards becoming an anti-racist, anti-oppressive institution.
Finally, coaches learned the STEPS process for how to problem solve and adjust games under different circumstances. The STEPS process allows coaches to modify games and activities based on space, time, equipment, participants, and the speed of the game. Each of our school partners has different space accommodations, different age ranges of participants, participant physical abilities, experience levels, and some teams are larger than others. This means that coaches must be able to adapt curriculum activities to fit their participants’ needs on any given day. STEPS training allowed our coaches to learn how to make these accommodations for any activity, providing higher quality and more inclusive programming to students in any situation.
The spring training days were full of learning, sharing, and discussions. Dajuan King, Program Manager responsible for planning and implementing training said this about the trainings, “This event is so unique because it’s one of the few opportunities that all of our coaches from around the city get to come together in one space. My favorite part was being able to observe how talented, creative, and impactful all of our coaches can be when presented with a challenge.” Urban Initiatives takes pride in the training that we provide each of our coaches because we know that it makes an impact on our program outcomes. Thank you to every coach that put in the time for learning and improving their programming and thank you to all of our facilitators. We are so excited for our spring season!