Soccer Québec’s reform revision: From recruitment to retention 

What can you do when your programs, though rich in physical benefits, aren’t addressing the changing, holistic needs of your organization’s members? By considering kaizen, or the idea of continuous improvement, you can strive to make positive change. 

Soccer Québec used to be a federation whose mission was closely aligned with member recruitment – which is natural for any organization trying to build up a sport they love and want to see grow. However, the federation recently realized that its mission had room for growth. Although they had steady numbers of member recruitment, their athletes were dropping out of the sport at alarming rates. This forced them to re-evaluate their vision and mission.

After a thorough evaluation, Soccer Québec is changing its vision to focus its efforts on member retention by developing soccer programs that focus on the holistic development and well-being of all implicated members (i.e., their athletes, educators, referees and employees). 

Their vision change closely aligns with the goal of the Long-Term Development in Sport and Physical Activity framework, which advocates that it is in everyone’s best interest that ALL organizations and sectors work together and follow a common approach to developing physical literacy and athletic potential, thereby ensuring that everyone has access to quality sport and physical activity. The common objective must be to increase retention in sport and physical activity and reduce dropout. Confusion, frustration, and burnout that can result from trying to work in an uncoordinated system tend to increase dropout rates.

Soccer Québec was serious about the transformation of their federation. So much so that they commissioned a study from the Observatoire international en management du sport (OIMS) at Université Laval. This study aimed, in particular, to better understand the federation members, their interests and motivations, and why they decided to quit or stay involved with soccer. 

This survey-based study involved more than 2,600 current and former members representing the club’s age groups. The results indicated that pleasure or lack thereof was the single most important indicator of whether or not individuals decided to participate in or quit the soccer club, with coaching quality being the most impactful moderator of pleasure. 

This study helped to inform Soccer Québec’s reform revisions. They decided that to improve their retention rate, they must give their members a reason to return. To do so, Soccer Québec has implemented the Club Recognition Program under the guidance of Soccer Canada, which consists of a list of criteria or quality standards that clubs must meet to provide a quality experience for their members.

The development director of Soccer Québec, Mike Vitulano explained that although they still have a long way to go in deploying this revised program, they are happy with the steps they are taking to initiate the change. 

Long-Term Development is a vehicle for system change because it acknowledges that physical education, school sports, competitive sports, and recreational activities are mutually interdependent. Achieving alignment between levels and sectors is a challenge, and is generally lacking in the current Canadian sport system. Traditionally, physical education in schools, community activity, and organized sport have been developed separately, which is often an ineffective and expensive approach. It fails to ensure that all children, regardless of whether they aspire to become elite athletes or simply want to participate, are given a solid foundation and knowledge base—physical, technical, tactical, and mental—upon which to build their athletic abilities. 

Federations such as Soccer Québec are beginning to realize the value of developing quality sport programs with support from other stakeholders. When stakeholders work together with a mindset for holistic development, everyone wins.

Click here to learn more about Soccer Québec’s courageous reform.  

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