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how to introduce innovative programs in sport Debra Gassewitz President & CEO, SIRC

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hen a new idea or program is introduced, not everyone jumps on board right away, no matter how good the idea may seem or how much scientific evidence is provided. Whether it is a technological coaching tool like Dartfish or a program (pathway) for developing athletes (such as Long Term Athlete Development), the rate of adoption varies. In Diffusion of Innovation, Rogers was able to identify the following five personality categories that explained how people respond to new (sometimes called innovative or disruptive) ideas: 1. Innovator: Often seen as someone who is willing to take risks, knows that some things may work or perhaps fail, may have more financial lucidity, enjoy the novelty factor. (2.5%) 2. Early Adopter: Frequently considered as an opinion leader since they are still quick to adopt, enjoy the status of being leading edge or having new products and willing to share their experiences. (13.5%)

These adoption categories are important because sport programmers, leaders or policy workers need to take into consideration the different rates at which a program, product or idea may be adopted. If a program is forced too quickly or expectations of adoption are unrealistic the long-term success of the program itself may be at risk. On the other hand, opportunities exist to maximize program adoption by targeting the various stages. Regardless whether you consider Board members, sport leaders, policy workers, coaches, parents, athletes, officials etc. the adoption rate may vary both within the group as well as within the organization. For example,

3. Early Majority: See the benefits, tend to be more pragmatic and adopt for productivity reasons (34%) 4. Late Majority: More skeptical about innovation or new programs, will adopt after the majority, (34%) 5. Laggard: Typically focused on traditions, hesitant to change, may adopt for safety reasons (16%) 6

Empowering sport organizations through strong leadership

whereas some Board members may thrive on innovative programming or introducing new technologies, others may be more pragmatic, inclined to minimize risk of an organization or adhere to tradition. Similarly if a sport wants to implement a new long-term athlete development pathway and one of the components reduces competition and keeping of score, it is very natural to encounter varying degrees of adoption. Within the sport or group, there may be some people who get onside right away, they read the research, embrace wholeheartedly the objectives and are willing to try new ideas. These innovators followed by the early adopters will be seen as opinion leaders and encourage

Leadership Summer 2016  
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