The logic behind the initiatives of national governing bodies in Flanders to improve organised youth sport
Tijdschriftbijdrage - Tijdschriftartikel
Regular involvement in organised youth sport boosts the likelihood of lifelong sport participation. However, increasing dropout rates in sport clubs and alarming levels of young people not meeting physical activity guidelines may suggest that the organised sport sector’s efforts have been insufficient to date. This situation calls for evaluation of the applicable youth sport policy to determine how organised youth sport is intended to operate and to articulate whether and how the policy achieves its stated goals. Accordingly, this paper identifies and analyses initiatives of national governing bodies (NGBs) to increase participation rates and improve the quality of youth sport in their affiliated sport clubs, using Flanders as a case study. A theory-based evaluation was applied working with qualitative data derived from extensive document analysis and five focus groups with representatives of 19 Flemish NGBs. The results reveal that the focus of NGBs is narrowed to increasing participation rates of youth members and building a sound organisational structure in sport clubs, rather than investing in the quality of provision to maximise enjoyment. Furthermore, most of the initiatives lack a clearly articulated strategy and are based on assumed mechanisms, rather than on prior understanding of effective processes. This study adds to the scarce literature on sport policy evaluation research by mapping out NGBs’ youth sport initiatives and using a theoretical lens through which to evaluate them. For practitioners, the results demonstrate the usefulness of a logic model to evaluate youth sport policy and to optimise the effectiveness of the initiatives employed.