Thursday, August 5, 2010

Project Coach and Step-UP return to Wabash College!

The PC team @ Wabash 2010

In conjunction with the Salisbury Foundation, Step-Up, and Wabash College, the Project Coach team of Program Director Andy Wood, and Coaching Instructor Mike Dean, returned to Indiana this past week to run the second iteration of a collaborative summer coaching program targeted at high school boys from Grand Rapids, MI, and Chicago, IL.

Coaches rehearse the 'huddle' ahead of Monday's sports session
After a successful first summer in 2009, the PC team were delighted to return to the picturesque campus in Crawfordsville, IN, where they were met last Friday by 14 youth coaches who were eager to develop their skills not only in the sporting arena, but in all facets of their lives. Assisted by Coaches Bopp, Sukup, and Brown, and three dynamic Wabash College students (Andre, Josh, and Wes), the team of instructors set to work by immersing the boys in an intensive weekend "PC Academy" curriculum, that sought to develop key skills and assets such as effective communication, developing a coaching philosophy, and learning the "Games Based Approach". At the culmination of this series of trainings, our youth coaches would be well-equipped to lead 60 children at the Montgomery County Boys & Girls Club through four days of fun-packed, high-action, sports sessions in both basketball and soccer.

Coaches prepare for "Sharks & Minnows"!
At the end of a grueling but highly rewarding three days, the coaches were ready to put the final touches to their coaching repertoire by rehearsing each of the games that they would employ with their teams of athletes - ranging from 5 - 12 years old - on Monday morning. As each game was explained, rehearsed, and played, the confidence of each coach grew visibly, as with each set the boys became more confident, more vocal, and more dynamic. By the time the final whistle blew on Sunday evening, every coach was ready and raring to go, eagerly anticipating doing it "live" on Monday morning.

After a morning workout and a hearty breakfast, the PC Step-Up team arrived at a bustling Boys & Girls Club, greeted by an army of eager kids at the front door, their memories still alive with the excitement of the previous summer's visit! After an all-group icebreaker activity, the coaching pairs (who had never met their partner before Friday) got straight to work, bringing their assigned team together for a teambuilding activity in the 'huddle'. From there, they proceeded to impress at every turn; running fast-paced, high activity games, involving themselves in each activity, and working as a team to tend to the needs of each young athlete. For almost three hours, the youth coaches ran a non-stop assortment of games, culminating in small-sided scrimmages, and, finally, a debrief with their teams to check-in with their players, and gauge their experiences. Needless to say, the response was an overwhelming 'thumbs-up'!!!

Not satisfied with one day's worth of success, the coaches got back to the drawing board later that evening to construct an equally intensive practice plan for the following day, incorporating new and exciting games, and building the sense of camaraderie within their teams by developing a team name and logo for their players. Indeed, many coaches also built into their plans some of the tricks learned during a Friday night airing of the movie "Pistol Pete", a look at the tribulations of basketball legend Pete Maravich's childhood, to the delight of their players!

Needless to say, the remaining time spent at the Boys & Girls Club was just as rewarding, and by the time they received their PC Academy certifications on Wednesday lunchtime, in front of an adoring crowd of children, our youth coaches had proven themselves to be impeccable leaders within the program.

Interspersed alongside the Project Coach curriculum, the boys were given valuable advice and guidance from a number of personnel at Wabash College, ranging from several Head Coaches, Financial Aid and Career Planning staff, and the Dean of Students, Mike Raters. Alongside these formal sessions, coaches took part in numerous activities that gave them some much-deserved time to decompress and simply enjoy themselves; bowling trips, movies, a picnic at Dean Raters' house, a trip to a wildlife sanctuary, and a visit to the NCAA Hall of Champions in Indianapolis, to name but a few.

At the end of another successful venture, in which we once again witnessed at first hand the incredible capacity for growth and leadership that youth possess, the PC staff headed back to the east coast having learned a tremendous amount about the program, and the most effective way to implement it. In a program designed to empower urban youth through helping them learn the importance of "supercognitive" skills, it is quite likely that our own experience was equally transformative.

It is perhaps fitting to leave the last words for the fine young men that we had the pleasure of working with.
Coach Tyshawn: "Being with all the other coaches, and in a positive environment, just helped me in so many ways".
Coach Amaad: "I learned that by changing yourself to become a better person you can help others, and change your whole lifestyle too".  
Coach Jeremy: "This was a great experience for me, and it was truly a blessing to be here, and to coach such awesome kids".

Our sincere thanks go to Linda Salisbury, and the Salisbury Foundation, for their continued generosity and support, the Step-Up program, Dean Raters and Jerry Bowie at Wabash College - for their incredible warmth and hospitality (not to mention first-class food!) - Coaches Bopp, Sukup, Brown, Andre, Josh, and Wes, Mike Beamer, who, as a Wabash alum and supporter of the Salisbury Foundation, was able to join the program and share his experiences, and - most importantly - the inspiring group of young men that formed the 2010 coaching cohort.

By Andy Wood