The U.S. Soccer Foundation is using soccer to combat childhood obesity and promote healthy lifestyles for children in under-served urban communities through a free after-school fitness program called Soccer for Success. The U.S. Soccer Foundation partners with community organizations throughout the U.S. to run it’s program, focusing on the core components of physical activity, nutrition, mentorship, and family engagement to help children form the habits necessary to build healthy lives. To date, the Foundation has worked with approximately 16,000 children in communities across the U.S.
With the tremendous growth of Soccer for Success, the U.S. Soccer Foundation needed to monitor the reach and impact of the program at each of its partner sites in order to learn from and improve the program in the future. Though partners were implementing a uniform curriculum at each site, there was little uniformity in the programs’ data collection methods and timing. For example, some sites had systems in place to track attendance, while others used merely a pen and paper; health indicators such as height, weight, and body mass index (BMI) might be recorded in varying units of measurement with no standardization amongst coaches or sites; additionally, the frequency of data reporting from each site varied significantly. The Foundation needed to effectively and efficiently streamline their partners’ data collection methods nationwide.
Working closely with the organization’s Soccer for Success staff, Vera developed a powerful Force.com application in which each Soccer for Success partner is now managing their own program, while giving U.S. Soccer Foundation visibility into national-level trends and indicators. The system captures data on the health outcomes of individual participants over time along with program attendance. Staff can use the system to monitor the progress of each participant, as well as that of entire neighborhoods, cohorts or sites. Coaches and program administrators alike can track key health indicators like change in BMI percentile or PACER scores, and correlate this data with factors such as program attendance and retention, giving them a more complete picture of each player and program. This provides the Foundation with an accurate picture of which community partner sites have the greatest impact and what factors contribute to their success.
With their new system, U.S. Soccer Foundation was able to institute a standard practice for data collection and reporting throughout their partner sites, by requiring coaches to enter both attendance and health data on a regular basis. U.S. Soccer Foundation can now actively compare different sites and coaches across the country and identify programmatic gaps. Soccer for Success coaches and Foundation staff receive regular email updates with dashboards showing the progress of their specific sites and participants.
This more accurate, up-to-date data is an invaluable tool for reaching out to parents and other community stakeholders, as well as potential partner organizations. In fact, U.S. Soccer Foundation’s system has proven so successful that they have been asked to present it at the Social Innovation Fund’s (SIF) upcoming grantee conference as an example of effective data collection. Most importantly, however, instead of a peripheral task, data collection has become a core part of the program, helping coaches, sites, and the organization as a whole track their impact in real-time.