Jays Care Foundation believes in a level playing field where all Canadian children and youth have opportunities to thrive and succeed. One way we are working to achieve this is through Rookie League.
What is Rookie League?
Rookie League is Jays Care's signature baseball for development program. The program is specially designed to use the power of baseball and the appeal of the Toronto Blue Jays to foster lasting social change across Canada and create leaders beyond the ballpark.
What are the long-term outcomes of Rookie League?
Rookie League has two distinct long-term outcomes it is working to achieve:
- To enhance the life skills and physical health of marginalized children; and,
- To enhance positive self-identity and the employment skills of marginalized youth.
What does the program involve?
Rookie League uses a hybrid approach to achieve our goals by using one goal to serve the other. We work with partner organizations to train local youth staff to initiate, facilitate and measure the impact of high quality Rookie League programs for the children in their communities. For some organizations, Rookie League is a baseball-for-development club that meets weekly. For others it is a robust summer day camp. For everyone, Rookie League is designed to be a best-in-class experience that enables parents and caregivers to feel confident that their children are safe, active, surrounded by well-trained and inspiring local role models, and engaging in activities that are specifically designed to help them learn essential life skills.
In order to ensure that the Rookie League experience is profound for both children and youth, Jays Care devotes significant time, expertise, training and coaching to the local youth staff who are the key implementers of the program. Here is what we do and why we do it:
- WE HIRE YOUTH STAFF FROM THE COMMUNITY: Most of the front-line Rookie League implementers (coaches) who are hired to lead the program are residents of the marginalized communities they are hired to serve. We do this not only to ensure that the children in the program can relate to their Rookie League coaches, but also to support marginalized youth who face multiple barriers. From birth, children growing up in marginalized communities experience remarkable opportunity gaps. Many are born with low birth weights; grow up hungry; live in environments that can be both physically and emotionally unsafe; and, are offered school and after-school programming that pales in comparison to what is offered to middle and high income families. With many coming from single-parent families, they often are exposed to fewer words, receive less support for academics and have access to fewer role models with academic and career success to aspire to. The Rookie League program is designed specifically to help children and youth gain the skills, experiences and role models to help overcome these significant opportunity gaps.
- WE SPEND A LOT OF TIME TRAINING YOUTH STAFF: All youth staff participate in 3-10 days of intensive and dynamic training to ensure that they have the skills and confidence to lead an exceptional outcome-based sport-for-development program. The training is designed to be fun and to help youth staff learn how they can implement programs for children that will enhance specific life-skills required to succeed in life. These include increasing vocabulary, communication skills, reasoning skills, negotiating skills, self-confidence, self-efficacy and awareness of personal resilience and community resources. Our trainers are diverse; they come from marginalized communities and beyond and work to engage and inspire youth staff to help them understand their own unique strengths and the wide range of opportunities that exist for them in their communities, at Jays Care, at the Toronto Blue Jays, at Rogers - and beyond.
- WE PROVIDE THEM WITH THE RIGHT PROGRAM RESOURCES/EQUIPMENT: All staff receive developmentally appropriate and user-friendly guides, manuals and program supplies and equipment to help them plan and lead each day of the program. We work with our staff in small teams to practice planning and using the resources. This results in three remarkable benefits: 1) the Rookie League program is well-designed; 2) the youth staff spend their summer and after-school hours reading and writing and thus reduce their chances of falling behind in school; and, 3) the youth staff experience success in a classroom environment, thus increasing their potentially wavering confidence in school.
- WE INVEST IN ON-THE-GROUND COACHING: Each youth staff has a highly skilled sport-for-development coach assigned to them. These coaches are tasked with creating individual coaching plans for each youth staff member. They work with each youth staff to identify their short- and long-term goals, their strengths and areas for growth and the many opportunities that exist for them, both today and in the future. Their job is to mentor, guide and offer on-going feedback and coaching to the youth staff. This helps the youth grow and develop their own skills and ensures that each Rookie League program is exceptional. At the end of each day, the youth staff participate in a debrief that challenges them to assess the quality of the program, identify their own accomplishments and make plans for improving the following day. This model of coaching and debriefing helps youth staff enhance their self-awareness, their reasoning and analytical skills and their ability to speak to their strengths -- a skill that is required in almost all job-seeking activities.
- WE MEASURE OUR IMPACT: We use a variety of tools to measure the impact of Rookie League on children. We do the same for measuring the impact on our youth staff. At the onset of their employment, all youth staff complete an in-depth survey that helps us understand their strengths, areas for growth, short-term and long-term employment and educational goals, their key motivators and their personal measures for success. We use a similar tool at the mid-point and end of employment to track changes throughout the employment experience.
- LONG-TERM OPPORTUNITIES: Using our wide network of implementing partners and organizational opportunities, we work to celebrate the successes and goals of the youth staff in ways that will support their long-term success in school and future employment. We do this through a variety of opportunities, which include job shadowing, job placement and scholarship programs, our take-a-computer home program, our Kids Up Front event opportunities and our bi-weekly incentive program.
Who are our current Rookie League partners?
Jays Care Foundation currently partners with four reputable organizations to design, deliver and measure impact of Rookie League programs. Each program is tailored to the unique needs of the organization, youth staff and children the organization serves:
- Boys and Girls Clubs of Canada:
- 35 sites
- 5,200 children
- 70 youth staff
- Right To Play:
- 25 First Nation Communities
- 1,000 children
- 25 youth staff
- Toronto Community Housing Corporation:
- 45 sites
- 1,250 children
- 140 youth staff
- 8 sites
- 160 children
- 15 youth staff
How can you get involved?
There are many ways to get involved with Rookie League. Here are few ways to step up to the plate: