Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Project Coach in the Press!

College coaches city youngsters

The Republican
Wednesday, February 24, 2010

NORTHAMPTON - Loeb G. Rosario knows exactly where he wants to be a dozen years from now.

"I want to be under the big lights, making the big decision to win the game," the Central High School sophomore from Springfield said.

The 16-year-old has a jump on that dream, thanks to Project Coach, a Smith College-sponsored program that gives Springfield teen-agers the tools to navigate the playing field as well as the field of life. Recently, Rosario was among a batch of teens learning leadership skills and training regimens under the tutelage of Smith professors Sam M. Intrator and Donald S. Siegel.

Siegel, who heads a master's program on coaching, came up with the idea for Project Coach while on sabbatical in 2003.

"The question was: Can sports be used to leverage education?" he said. "Sam and I did a lot of talking about that. There had to be mechanisms that taught certain things. The best way to do this is to teach kids to be coaches."

Now in its seventh year, Project Coach runs a sports league that plays at Chestnut Street Middle School and German Gerena Community School in Springfield. There are currently 25 high school students coaching 120 Springfield elementary school pupils in basketball and soccer. The program raises money to pay the coaches minimum wage salaries, and the teens, in turn, spend one day a week on special community health projects. One young coach recently gave a presentation on diabetes 2, which Intractor said is a huge health problem in north Springfield. The program also includes training on how to deal with bullying.

Rosario, who has been with Project Coach for three years, said he has seen the effects of the program in his school work as well as on the court.

"It teaches you how to be responsible and get things done on time," he said. "We have to get the kids to be there on time. They look at us like role models, basically."

Jaytoe E. Teh, 16, is a junior at Putnam Vocational Technical High School and an All-State soccer player. He said Project Coach has made him a better person as well as a better coach.

"It's helping teens and little kids at the same time," he said.

Some of the coaches-in-training recently took part in a research project by Smith senior Helene M. Parker, who was using weight-sensing equipment and a computer to study balance. Her findings could help the young coaches teach their players how to attain better stability.

Siegel said one of the program's goals is to get its teen-age coaches nationally licensed so that they can coach in any state.

Francesca M. Rodriguez, 17, a senior at Springfield Renaissance School, loves sports, but said Project Coach has been her avenue to a different career.

"I want to be a teacher," she said. "This helped me finally decide, because I love working with kids."

Rodriguez has applied to Hampshire College, where she hopes to study special education teaching at the elementary level.

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