Monday, February 15, 2010

Meet the Project Coach team....Kym Kendall

Not only has she worked with Project Coach since it started, but she also played soccer against Mia Hamm! Who is this wonder woman? Kym Kendall, the Physical Education teacher at Gerena Elementary School in Springfield, MA. She comes from Miami, Florida and played with Mia on the U.S. Olympic Development Team. Kym was also the gym teacher who helped Ziggy and Loeb (the boys interviewed last week), become involved in Project Coach and who are now strong leaders of the program.

She believes Project Coach is a fantastic program because there is nothing else like it for the kids in the Springfield area to do after school. She reveals that the programs that are available are directed toward the younger kids and the teens really have no options.

Since Kym works as the Phys Ed teacher at the elementary school, Gerena, she is able to offer a unique perspective of how this program affects the younger participants of Project Coach:

“Many of these kids come from foster care where nothing is stable except school, and for those who are involved, Project Coach”. She continues to explain that these kids have a particularly difficult time trusting adult figures, since most of them haven’t really been able to in the past. However, Project Coach offers these kids role models who are closer to their age and who they can identify with. They also see adults who are there week after week, and who prove to them that they care about who they are and who they have the potential to be.

Kym also points out that many of the girls she knows in the school do not have many strong female role models in their lives. Many of the older women they know are pregnant and not athletic. Project Coach provides these young girls with strong female leaders who they can look at and say, “Look! She can outrun those boys on the field” or “My coach is a girl, so maybe I can be that one day”. It can only be beneficial for these young girls to have strong ladies as their role models, showing them that they, too, can find their strength and not be afraid to believe in themselves and their “girl power”.

Parental involvement is something Kym also notices as a great effect Project Coach has on the community. “It is so rare to see parents around the school, they barely ever come in to talk to the teachers. Of the 10 years I have worked at Gerena, I have only met a handful of parents. Yet, there is something about Project Coach that allows the parents to get out of their cars to meet their kids on the field and they are encourage to meet the teen coaches who are working with their children. It provides an opportunity for the parents to become involved and interact in their children’s school days and feel welcome to do so”.

Kym emphasizes how much the Springfield community has embraced this welcoming program and asks, “If it weren’t for Project Coach, what could these kids be doing? They would be on the streets, in gangs, playing video games”, anything to solve their boredom.

Project Coach provides a safe place, not only for the teen coaches, but for the young athletes and the parents; a place to feel at home, a place where they are always welcome.

By Marie Wallace

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