Resilience: noun: The ability to recover quickly from illness, change, or misfortune; buoyancy.
This term perfectly summarizes Project Coach on Tuesday.
The sun shown down brightly as the red shirts and coaches walked onto the Roberto Clemente field in Springfield, arms full of sports balls, cones, rope, bats, and a net. All this equipment was in preparation for Project Coach’s 2nd annual North End Community Sports Day, full of various sports games from volleyball and basketball, to kickball and tug-o-war for the kids in the community.
Sounds of kids laughter and gleeful screaming filled the air as I walked around the field viewing the different activities. Western New England College was also adding to this great atmosphere, leading the volleyball and t-ball stations, thanks to an array of college players and long-time PC supporter Charles Drago. It was so great to have some volunteers from the community showing their support for Project Coach. Red shirts were even getting competitive as they jumped into the games. Excitement was also exuding from the teenage coaches, especially at my personal favorite sport station: tug-o-war! At one point, there were about 15 kids on one end of the rope with 4 male coaches (all very strong). As a spectator, I was convinced all the kids would go flying, however, after a minute or so of tugging, the “kids team” tugged that rope right out of the their coaches’’ hands! What a great victory!
It was so great to scan the green field and see the kids, teenagers, and grad students all playing together with smiles spreading across each face. Sportsmanship and teamwork were also very evident at each station, as team members cheered each other on and high-fives were exchanged between friendly competitors.
However, Mother Nature had other plans for the rest of the day. A dark, looming, cloud floated its way above the field and a major gust of wind swept through, forcing everybody to run for safety indoors. Adults’ faces changed from happy and satisfied to worry and frantic. There were so many children to be accounted for and to fit into the indoor gyms. There was also the question of what activities to use for the kids in the remaining half hour of the day.
Thankfully, Project Coach has taught its coaches resilience and the importance of being flexible and creative when the original plans go awry. This was clear when the coaches immediately organized a bunch of scrimmages for the kids. Different colored sports pennies began appearing on the kids as teams were made and the basketball games began. As quickly as the kids had stopped the outside games and dispersed into the gym, the excitement and high energy level returned. The coaches were immediately on the sidelines coaching their teams to victory. This turn around from having about 70 young kids running around outside to organizing them into teams and starting basketball games indoors was simply amazing; all the children were quickly accounted for, no one was standing around wondering what to do next, and the coaches and red shirts mobilized quicker than lightning to decide what activity they would begin with this unexpected change in plans. The initiative the teenagers took to plan and mobilize their young athletes into new games demonstrated their resilience to any unexpected change in plans, like the change in weather provided that day.
It is because of the Project Coach red shirts and coaches resilience that made this day an incredible success. Not only was the camaraderie seen on the outside field inspiring, but as equally, if not more, inspiring was realizing that nothing could stand in the way of red shirts and coaches making this day the successful and fun for the kids.
Article and photos by Marie Wallace