Monday, March 22, 2010

A Day in the Life of Project Coach

It was a rainy, overcast Wednesday when I spent a recent afternoon at Project Coach during Basketball season. Despite the weather outside, however, the coaches, mentors, players, and students inside were bursting with energy!

To kick off the day for the elementary school kids, there were tables for each team in the Gerena School cafeteria with a list of questions: What does sportsmanship mean? Why is sportsmanship important? What can I do to be a great teammate? Each team of five to eight players and one or two coaches sat down together and brainstormed answers to these questions. I asked Madison, a precocious and friendly team member, what she thought of the questions; she answered, after pausing for only a moment, "Together, everyone achieves more."

Moving across the parking lot to the middle school gymnasium, I found a handful of teams were already practicing and going through drills. Destiny, one of the coaches, is a female coach of a team of all boys, the Eagles. Don, Co-Project Director, commented on how important it was for the middle school boys to see "a woman in charge" and how this empowered both the coach and the player. Destiny led her players through a series of drills, including one in which team members were asked to dribble in a small designated area while Destiny and another Project Coach mentor tried to distract each dribbler, in a "Games Based Approach" activity that stresses the importance of using high-energy, game-like scenarios to build authentic practices. Look below for a video clip!

Once it was time for scrimmaging, the energy in the gym grew tenfold. Some players did cartwheels down the court, while others patted each other on the back. Coaches stayed close-by on the court to continue to instruct and help out each player and the team as a whole.

The teams rotated between doing drills, scrimmaging, and spending a few minutes with Andy in a separate room to watch a few clips and take part in a discussion of coaching. Andy chose to show a particularly humorous clip from the movie, Bad News Bears, in which the coach was sarcastic and uncaring towards the players. The clip lasted for only a minute, but sparked discussion for much longer that involved players considering meaningful questions about what it means to be a great coach, what a coach's responsibilities are to their players, and how a coach can impact the lives of their athletes both within and outside of sports. Look below for a video clip!

Once parents, friends, and family members started to usher into the gym at the end of the day, the energy had subsided some, though not completely. A few players tried to squeeze in a few last shots at the basket before packing up to go home.

By Molly Ristuccia

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