Coaching has always been at the center of Urban Initiatives’ mission. Great coaches facilitate great programs, which create positive outcomes for youth, families, schools, and communities. Urban Initiatives seeks to include coaches that are consistently learning, growing, and implementing tested and validated best practices to facilitate the highest quality programming for our participants. Our definition of coach is broad: anyone can be a coach- teachers, parents, community members, volunteers, or youth- and with the right philosophy to learning and development, all coaches can be highly impactful in our communities.
To support these fundamental tenets of our work, Urban Initiatives has a dedicated Learning Team that supports the growth and development of coaches by creating impactful learning opportunities at Urban Initiatives and across Chicago. The Learning Team utilizes the core sport-based youth development (SBYD) approach of UI programs to improve ourselves and others through sessions built on several key ideas.
#1 – Learn by Doing
Urban Initiatives’ elementary soccer program sessions don’t start with a classroom lesson about the social-emotional learning concept of the week. We don’t begin by explaining or lecturing; we start by doing. We hit the field, playing and experiencing together! We believe that experiential learning is the most impactful. The Learning Team at UI creates opportunities for powerful self-discovery and group learnings by getting active. This active, experiential learning creates a pathway to more technical teachings. You’ll see our Learning Team jumping right into experiential learning, connecting our coaches to the actual power of play before we dive into technical explanations, processes, and research-backed evidence.
#2 Small Steps Toward Big Goals
Our Learning Team focuses on creating practical job skills that will benefit coaches in various settings. To build these skills, we break learning into incremental steps. We also approach growth opportunities holistically, meaning that we often tackle learning from many perspectives and disciplines. These approaches ensure that our vision of building great coaches and teammates is accessible to all, regardless of background or experience.
#3 Backed by Research
Urban Initiatives has always been an evidence-based, outcomes-driven organization. We prioritize learning strategies that are backed by research. In partnership with the Urban Initiatives Research & Evaluation team, we measure our outcomes to be sure that our teachings are driving impact towards our greater mission.
#4 Facilitated Discussion
Connection and community are central to our work. Our Learning Team knows it is challenging to commit new information to memory and apply it in our work. That’s why we prioritize discussion and sharing our ideas with others in the learning process. New learning becomes a habit when we can learn, discuss, and vet new ideas in a community. We create engaging discussions, prompts, and exercises to connect our coaches with one another because shared knowledge is stickier and more applicable to real-world scenarios.
To achieve our mission, Urban Initiatives needs lots of trained, dedicated coaches on our team. Through our learning philosophy, we are building a team of coaches that can affect change, strengthen our communities, and deliver powerful play experiences across Chicago.