When I think about strong communities I think about the impact the community makes through volunteerism. I think about those that volunteer with the Plant City Food Bank to ensure that our families can put food on the table. I think about the leaders in our community who serve selflessly on our communities’ nonprofit boards. I think about the caring adults that take time to mentor the youth in our community to ensure that they have the promise of a great life regardless of their situations. All of these are amazing uses of our time but, when I think of volunteerism, I think of the impact of Coaching Youth Sports.
When I was 16 years old I had the opportunity to coach my hometown’s local elementary school flag football team and it was an amazing experience that I didn’t truly appreciate until later in life. I was volunteering because I wanted to help kids but, selfishly I was doing it because I wanted to show my strategies on the flag football field. I loved creating plays on Madden, so why not translate to the young 8 and 9 year olds at the local park? Well, like anyone who has been a volunteer coach you quickly learn that coaching youth sports has little to do with superior strategies but rather teaching life skills, fundamentals, and most importantly ensuring that children have fun and stay healthy.
Fast forward to when I began my career as a Sports Director at the YMCA of Greater Cleveland and had 300 children coming to us every season to play sports. Well, for me, that meant I needed to ensure that I had 30+ volunteer coaches to ensure the best possible experience for the kids. As I started recruiting coaches, I was shocked to learn that there was a misperception around what is needed to be a volunteer youth sports coach. I had parents who would tell me that they “only” played three years of varsity basketball so they weren’t sure if they were qualified enough to be the Head Coach of the 5-6-year-old Little Lakers team. I would normally laugh to myself understanding that the techniques needed to coach youth basketball had so much more to do with fun and games, being present and bringing the after practice snacks than it did how to do a jump stop or dribble between their legs. After some convincing I would get them to agree to coach and you know what happened? They would love coaching and the kids would love being coached by them, especially their own child.
Youth Sports is where so many children learn skills that they take with them the rest of their lives. I learned from my youth baseball coach that when he scheduled practice for 5:15pm that myself and the rest of the team better be there at 5:15pm or we wouldn’t start that night’s game. In the moment it was a tough lesson about being on time, but my youth baseball coach knew that if I learned the value of being on time it would help me when I began working and the consequences for being late were much more severe than missing the first three innings against our rival. I learned from my youth football coach that showing up and giving my best was rewarded in life when I was named a starter on my football team despite being of lesser talent. Finally, I learned from my favorite youth sports coach, my Dad, that love wasn’t shared through gifts, but rather time spent.
I am sure right now as you read this you think back to your favorite youth sports coach with fond memories, I ask, won’t you create memories of your own?