Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Day 1 - Something old....something new...

“Responsibility” is defined by the Webster Dictionary as “the state of being responsible, accountable, or answerable, as for a trust, debt, or obligation”. For two teenagers named Ziggy (17) and Leob (16), “responsibility” means Project Coach.

Both Ziggy and Leob are veterans of Project Coach; Ziggy has been involved since this program’s beginning in 2004, six years ago and Leob joined three years ago. Veterans of Project Coach, these boys are helping Graduate students interview prospective students who may become the new coaches. My job? To discover why Ziggy and Leob fell in love with Project Coach and how it has come to be that they are not only leaders on the field, but are now leaders of the program helping choose new teenagers to follow in their legacy.

This is Ziggy’s story: At the age of 11, his gym teacher told him there was an opportunity for him to make some money. And “What kid doesn’t want to make money?” Ziggy asks with a smile. At the orientation with Sam Intrator and Don Siegel, Ziggy realized that this program, Project Coach, would help teach him to be a better role model. His thoughts went directly to his two younger siblings. He says, “I really wanted to be the best role model for them, and I thought Project Coach could teach me how to be the best role model”. He explains further that he was “looking for an outlet” because he was a “naturally hyper student who occasionally played the role of class clown”. The athletic fields utilized by Project Coach provided a perfect outlet for his energy.

When he first joined Project Coach, he was the youngest coach and all the older children became his role models. A memory Ziggy shares with me is when there we two kids fighting and the coach did not just ignore or dismiss the situation. Instead, the coach brought the two kids together and they talked about why fighting is not helpful and that Project Coach is not a place for fighting. Then, Ziggy remembers, that these two kids were playing on the same team within the next five minutes. At the time, Ziggy explains, this surprised him and he greatly admired the coach who he watched bring the two kids together after a fight. Now Ziggy is that experienced coach who is responsible for putting an end to fights and helping kids see the importance of working their problems out on and off the field. When asked to describe the program in one word, this veteran takes no more than 2 seconds to answer with confidence, “motivating”.

The second story is that of Loeb’s: He is 16 years old and has been a part of Project Coach for three years. Like Ziggy, Loeb’s gym teacher also told him about Project Coach as a chance to make money and to also learn leadership skills. Loeb explained that being a coach was also a dream of his, but he never thought anyone would give him the chance to be a coach at such a young age. Project Coach was giving him this chance!

Loeb was having trouble in school previous to joining the program. He then explains that Project Coach offers free tutoring to its coaches and the tutors are willing to come on other days in the week too. Because of Project Coach’s tutoring, Loeb saw a great increase in his grades, giving him a big confidence booster. When I asked Loeb how Project Coach has helped in grow in ways other than academia, he explains that he is now more responsible. I ask him to explain what “being responsible” means in the context of Project Coach. He answers, “My kids look up to me as a coach, always ask me for help and advice, so I know I must be doing something right”. And a smile spreads across his face.

Project Coach has given both veterans, Ziggy and Loeb, the opportunity to rise up and become the leaders of younger kids in their community, thus giving them the opportunity to learn responsibility and leadership. Immediate results of their responsibility and leadership are clearly seen with the young athletes they coach as they solve fights, and help each young athlete work out his or her problems. And now, future possible coaches for the program are looking up to both boys and they are both ready for this role, as their confidence in their leadership and their love for Project Coach emanates throughout the room.

By Marie Wallace

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