Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Project Coach is back in full swing!

By Anna Bartolini, 2010 Project Coach Fellow

After an exciting few weeks of recruiting, interviewing, and training, we are finally out on the field doing what we do best: coaching! having fun! playing soccer! staying active! It certainly feels good to see Project Coach in motion again—from the smiles on the elementary kids’ faces, to the determination of our new set of high school coaches, things are falling into place.

Here’s a quick snapshot of the Fall 2010 season:

Project Coach Soccer underway in the North En d
Recruiting: Project coach must recruit from two angles. First, we need to recruit motivated high-school teens to work as coaches for our elementary students. We recruit through the Springfield schools (teachers and guidance counselors make recommendations), our veteran coaches help spread the word, and we post flyers. Second, we need to recruit a whole bunch of excited kids to come out and play! This part is not so hard, and we have successfully expanded our program to serve 90 kids this year!

Interviewing: All of our high school coaches go through a rigorous interview process. Over 80 applicants came out this year! After a few rounds of ice-breakers, group interviews, and mock scenarios, we narrowed down the field to a group of 21 extremely energetic and qualified teens.

Training: Each of our 21 coaches participated in an intensive pre-season training. The coaches learned all about communication, professionalism, and most importantly, the games that are the staple of our Games-Based approach to sports. Coaches were each given the chance to run a mock practice session—we even video taped their performances in order to really hone their individual skills as coaches.

Coaching: Last week, our 90 players, 21 coaches, 7 Red Shirts, and a handful of others took to the field! Within no time, our new coaches had kids rounded up in the huddle, learning names and building team spirit. Coaches then led the kids through a series of fun soccer games and scrimmages to practice dribbling, passing and general ball movement. After Wednesday’s and Friday’s sessions, it was apparent that Project Coach Fall 2010 is going to be a great season.

Monday, September 27, 2010

First Days of Project Coach 2010-2011

I’m Angela, an undergraduate student at Smith College. This year I’ll be a Project Coach blog contributor. I was present during part of the interviewing process where over forty high school students applied to become youth coaches. Friday was the first day I was on the field, watching as the youth coaches and their graduate student supervisors led their small soccer teams of elementary school students in an array of different activities and games. The field, strewn with soccer balls, was set up with multiple small goalposts and cones. The elementary school students, from third to sixth grade, came from Springfield schools to spend a couple of hours on the field in the sun, running, shouting and playing soccer rather than staying at home. The players were broken up into smaller groups of about eight, participating in soccer related games led by their coaches who offered explanations and demonstrations on how games were played, learning to communicate with their players and offering words of encouragement. One player called Project Coaches’ co-director ‘Sam the ham’ when he introduced himself and a get to know your teammates name rhyming game ensued. The red light, green light game was enjoyed with new introductions like purple light and orange light in which players tried different drills with their soccer balls. Coaches frequently told their players to “Take a kneel!” before huddling up with their teammates or to “Hustle, hustle, hustle!” while playing a game. Parents and family members watched at the sidelines as the kids, who were wearing blue Project Coach jerseys that went down to some of the players’ knees, enjoyed the drills and games. Friday was sunny and the elementary school soccer players were grateful for the water coolers although one girl hoped that “the water is colder today.” Tired and hot, but for the most part energized and happy, one player asked his coach if his team could have more time to play once practice was over.