Exploring evaluation practices within the youth-serving sport sector throughout the COVID-19 pandemic


Within the sport sector, evaluation is an essential organizational practice used to gain insights about programming, inform decision-making processes, and/or fulfill funding requirements. The COVID-19 pandemic has necessitated evaluation as a means of exploring how organizations can adapt programming to best meet stakeholder needs in the current landscape. The purpose of this study was to understand the current state of evaluation within the youth-serving sport sector. Using semi-structured interviews, perspectives were generated from 28 stakeholders who provide or support sport-related youth programming (64% women, Mage= 38.5), including youth workers, coaches, managers, and funders from local to nationally run organizations. Data were analyzed using an inductive thematic approach. Results spanned three themes representing how organizations pivoted their evaluation activities throughout the pandemic, including (a) expanded foci on understanding sport program evaluation and delivery processes, (b) narrowed foci to generate practical insights for pragmatizing evaluation in sport, and (c) enhanced foci on the life skill-related outcomes of sport. Specifically, participants discussed re-vamping existing evaluation practices (e.g., involving youth in evaluation practices), exploring creative dissemination methods (e.g., storytelling), and reframing and simplifying evaluation practices to improve feasibility moving forward (e.g., purposefully collecting data that is relevant or actionable in informing decision-making and program improvement). Such findings are important for highlighting where the field of evaluation is moving in the sport sector and capacity gaps that still exist (e.g., limited knowledge about youth-centered evaluation approaches). Findings have and will continue to inform future knowledge mobilization and capacity-building opportunities (e.g., webinars, validated tools, and training opportunities) of evaluation best practices.