Fabrice Vil

This description of Fabrice Vil's work was prepared when Fabrice Vil was elected to the Ashoka Fellowship in 2018 .

Introduction

Fabrice Vil is the architect behind a new professional in the public sports and education sectors that promote positive civic engagement and community leadership at large. He is systematically transforming sports coaches into skilled “life coaches” to support vulnerable youth to overcome adversity, thrive and become leaders and active members of society.

The New Idea

Fabrice is promoting youth community leadership amongst the most vulnerable young people in low resource neighbourhoods. He is establishing a new norm by shifting the focus of sports coaches from nurturing simply the athlete, to nurturing the whole child so that they can reach their full potential.

Fabrice targets coaches specifically due to their unique and influential (both negative and positive) position in a young person's life. They are often a more steady figure than school teachers who change from year to year and yet are not as intertwined with day to day family complexities as parent figures are. As such, Fabrice recognizes the opportunity for coaches to serve as positive role models and have leverage when students drop out of class but still want to participate in sports teams. Through P3P, Fabrice is activating this new life coach professional to systematically fill a void and work in this critical catchment area to transform the young person’s development and trajectory.

Fabrice’s model rigorously equips sports coaches with the skills and mindsets they need for going beyond mere sport and for being life coaches. In the traditional model there was no specific training for coaches who had to rely on their personal capabilities. To do so, Fabrice engages with early stage coaches to access the training, mentorship, personal development, and community necessary to be inspired role models. These coaches benefit from like-minded individuals dedicated to changemaking, supporting long-term growth and peer-to-peer development. This includes rival team coaches meeting on a bi-monthly basis to share their experiences on and off the court/field to build a community of support and a culture of collaboration across neighbourhoods.

Fabrice’s vision for coaches is to collectively advance positive civic engagement and community leadership across sports and educational systems. Fabrice is on a path to transforming public policy and norms in sports and education sectors at national levels by engaging government, media, and other community stakeholders to invest in celebrating, training, and integrating this new profession more broadly across public systems.

The Problem

Statistics Canada highlights that in 2011, close to three-quarters of all Canadians live in low income neighbourhoods (defined as one in which 30% or more persons had low incomes). Youth in these neighbourhoods are more vulnerable as they have limited access to mentors and professionals around them to help them succeed in school and life. This leads to high dropout and low engagement levels of youth in disadvantaged communities. For instance, youth in low-income urban communities are four times more likely than middle class youth to fall behind in school, three times more likely to show behavioural issues and are less likely to graduate from high school. In Montreal for example, the attrition is above 50% in many schools. In Quebec, only 69 percent of students in low-income areas graduate from high school, compared to 88 percent in affluent neighbourhoods. According to a national survey commissioned by the non-profit organization, Pathways to Education, more than 400,000 youth in marginalized communities in Canada are at risk of dropping out because they aren’t getting the tools they need to graduate.

The Canadian Centre for Ethics in Sports research highlights how sport can foster positive values and teach life skills, enhance academic achievement, and prevent youth crime and gang involvement. However, broadly speaking, sports coaches aren’t trained with the skills to support youth development in social-emotional, mental health and character building; the scope of coach-training opportunities remains limited. For instance, in Canada, the National Coach Certification Program (NCCP) trains just over 60,000 coaches per year, with the primary focus is on coaches’ professional knowledge (sports pedagogy and technical aspects of the sports). Whereas, positive coaching, the type of coaching necessary to develop youth’s life skills, entails much more integrated knowledge. This includes professional (sports/pedagogy science), personal (introspection/own learning), interpersonal (interactions with athletes and others), and environmental (athlete’s environment). An example of this is the reaction that a coach may have when an athlete makes a mistake. Athletes can make mistakes because (1) they don't understand a given concept, (2) they don't have the skill level to perform properly or (3) they aren’t focused. Coaches who have only acquired professional knowledge can react aggressively, assuming this will force the athlete to focus and/or because they lack the intrapersonal and interpersonal skills to react otherwise. Many coaches also fail to take into consideration the environment in which the athlete evolves that may help understand the mistake. The lack of holistic training is not simply a Canadian issue, according to the American National Association of Youth Sports, less than 10% of coaches are adequately trained in positive coaching techniques.

Compacting the lack of available positive coaching techniques challenge is that trainings tend to be time bound and do not provide the long-term support needed to foster good coach development over time. This problem underlies all mainstream coach-training programs, even those specifically designed to develop coaches’ ability to foster youth’s life skills. While investing significant resources in teacher education and training is the norm because of the need for qualified full-time teachers in education, coaching is generally a part-time or volunteer position for which lengthy training is not perceived as beneficial in relation to cost. Therefore, coaches do not receive the long term mentorship or formal peer support that they need to deal with evolving and complex situations. This is problematic because sport for development research shows high quality coaches to be the primary component necessary to drive positive outcomes for youth. As such, sports for development as it stands is largely not being designed or supported impact young people to its full potential.

All together, the correlation between low income youth and high dropout rates, little to no training to support coaches to develop youth social-emotional mental health and resilience, and finally few long term professional development and support opportunities for sports coaches beyond initial training make up the root problems that Fabrice is tackling.

The Strategy

In 2010 in Montreal, Quebec, Fabrice started his non-profit organization Pour 3 Points (P3P) by working directly with youth. However upon discovering the widening gap in coach training, he decided to pivot and focus directly on training and fostering a community of coaches. Initially he started with bringing in promising coaches that he selected from outside of the community, but existing school coaches were frustrated and were not open to the top down approach to culture change. Fabrice quickly learned that meaningful change needed to happen from within. As such, in 2013, P3P set out with their new program to select, train and support beginner coaches who are most likely to have a multiplier effect as role models and leaders from within the communities they were coaching in. Starting with two schools, they grew to 4 in that same year and Fabrice realized that he had developed a program that was meeting a real need.

Fabrice takes coaches through an intensive 1-year training program that includes matching coaches with low-income schools, mentorship, community and formal theoretical training. It also includes hands-on coaching experience and continuous learning through monthly mentorship sessions and peer-to-peer learning. Fabrice starts by selecting coaches that were connected with the community. The criteria included, openness to learning and introspection, passion for social change, perseverance, commitment to child development, ability to rally others around a vision, and potential to collaborate with diverse individuals. This criteria feeds into four core focus areas that are used to transform sports coaches into life coaches. This includes cultivating self awareness, interpersonal skills, technical knowhow, and setting a positive environment for change. Coaches develop an increased ability to self reflect, strategically plan, development youth interventions (youth centered not autocratic), act as a partner with colleagues/parents/school personal, and to be intrapreneurial to adapt the new role into the school system.

As of 2018, P3P is in 14 schools with 46 coaches impacting more than 550 kids/year over 4 school boards in the cities of Montreal and Laval in Quebec, Canada. Fabrice’s program is sparking a behaviour change among youth coached by P3P coaches. Testimonials from youth include self-reflections that indicate they are better able to practice thinking about how their decisions have consequences for their team as well as strengthening their self-confidence and growth-mindset both on the court and in school. McGill University led a study on P3P youth to find qualitative results indicating that P3P coaches learned how to give their athletes more autonomy in making decisions, build positive relationships and focus on the athletes rather than themselves. Quantitative results (based on before and after questionnaires comparing P3P athletes to control groups) showed that P3P children scored higher in competence of their sport. All youth athletes were more communicative and more comfortable to have difficult conversations as well as improved confidence, leadership, and motivation among their athletes. Notably, P3P youth demonstrated significantly less anti-social behaviour toward their opponents than non-P3P athletes. They also were found to be significantly stronger relationship ties to their coaches than the non-P3P youth.

While directly training coaches has been an integral part of Fabrice’s strategy from 2012-2018, they decided to adopt a “train the trainer” model to scale provincially and nationally from 2018 onward. This new strategy will select, train and certify P3P coach trainers to be hired by school boards and take charge of training coaches across their respective jurisdictions. Per year, each P3P coach trainer will be tasked to cultivate 15 new P3P certified coaches and provide basic training on P3P principles to another 150 coaches and educators at large. P3P Coach trainers will work with the 15 coaches to provide the intensive training that they have been giving to date with clear follow up and strong feedback loops. Additionally, the P3P coach trainers will be required to do a ‘P3P Lite’ training to around 150 coaches and educators across the school board per year to raise awareness of positive coaching and its principles for success. The combination of P3P certified coaches acting as leaders and ‘P3P lite trainees’ aims to elevate the overall coaching quality and supportive environment for this new type of coach.

Fabrice has secured a partnership with the Quebec Provincial Ministry of Education to invest in the initial funding necessary to hire P3P coach trainers across provincial school boards. These ministerial level projects are poised to drive a change in provincial regulation requiring that all school coaches obtain the basic training on P3P principles. In doing so, Fabrice’s is working to ensure that the supply of this new type of coach meets a reliable demand. As such, he is working at the systems level to cultivate new economic transactions for this new profession.

Fabrice also actively engages in public dialogues to educate diverse audiences on the role of coaches in the lives of youth to influence public perception on the value-add of the P3P innovation. This is done through Fabrice’s work as a columnist in the Quebec-wide newspaper, Le Devoir, and regular appearances on the national Canadian Broadcasting Company television network. Fabrice is currently working on a documentary to highlight the importance of coaches for youth development, and participates in multiple networks committed to building the movement of sport for change in Quebec and Canada.

The Person

Fabrice was born in Montreal to Haitian parents who saw education as the key to achievement in all parts of life. Given the fact that he belonged to a historically disadvantaged ethnic community, and that he grew up in the Northeastern part of Montreal, where some of the poorest neighborhoods of the city exist, he was well aware at a very young age of social inequalities. He spent his weekends in an adjacent neighbourhood to play in a basketball club but went to school in another. He was appalled by the fact that his weekend club did not provide the opportunities to his friends that he was personally experiencing at school.

At school, Fabrice had two coaches that transformed his trajectory; they taught him to dare to shoot again after a missed shot and to stand up against bullying on the court and in the locker room. They instilled in him that giving his best effort was the true measure of success and that a tough loss was just an opportunity to learn and improve for the next game. Thanks to these coaches, he learned that sport is just another school of life. Not only did they help him improve his skills as a player, but they helped him to shape into a leader off the court who would not shy away from challenges. He also encountered negative coaching behavior, e.g. stood up against a smoking coach and, through that experience, understood that coach may have immensely negative or immensely positive impact on youth.

At the age of 16, he started coaching and experimented with developmental coaching techniques even before he received training. Fabrice went on to university and eventually became a lawyer, while continuing to coach youth in his spare time. It was a re-encounter with a former childhood friend from his weekend club that sparked a light bulb moment for Fabrice. They’d lost touch during their teens and reconnected in 2010 where he learned that he was a high school drop-out and that he was wanted by the police. He was convinced that adequate support from his childhood friend’s coaches would have helped him achieve a better life. It was this realization that caused him to shift his life path from law to transforming coaching so that it could be recognized as an important profession in aiding at-risk youth succeed in school, sports and life overall.