“Volleyball is not really my cup of tea, so I would be glad to do an interview,” responded Coach Ty after I asked her if she would mind stepping out of Monday night’s session on volleyball for a few minutes to talk to me. Coach Ty is one of our most veteran coaches—she joined the team in eighth grade and is now a junior. Her four years with Project Coach give Coach Ty an invaluable perspective on the successes and challenges the program has faced.
Milbrey W. McLaughlin in his report, “Community Counts: How Youth Organizations Matter for Youth Development,” advocates for community based organizations (CBO’s) to do more listening to youth. McLaughlin writes, “A lack of youth perspective leads adults to make wrong assumptions.” In an effort to better understand the motives and experiences of the Project Coach youth, I turned to Coach Ty.
AB: Coach Ty, I read this article called “Community Counts.” It interviewed a bunch of youth about the CBO’s they are involved with in order to determine what makes a “good” organization for youth. What do you think is good about Project Coach?
CT: One thing that I think is good is that Project coach has expanded slowly over time. The first year we started out pretty small, but each year we get more kids. The kids like coming. It’s good for them because it teaches them how to interact with other people.
I can also see how Project Coach brings out a person. I remember being new and quiet—I was still learning. I wasn’t loud like I am now! And I can see that with the new coaches—quiet and shy—but give them a few years and we’ll see.
AB: Having a “clear focus” is considered to be another quality of a good program. What do you think, does Project Coach have a clear focus?
CT: Yeah, leadership. See the college coaches [red shirts] mentor the Blue Shirts [high school coaches]. Then the Blue Shirts mentor the little kids. And I guess its all centered around sports like soccer and basketball.
AB: Can you tell me more about being a mentor to the kids?
CT: I think we are a good influence on these kids, like they could follow in our footsteps. They see how we are as people, and they can want to be like that, too. And it’s a lot of fun working with the kids. I remember one time I twisted my ankle getting ready for the kids to come and so I had to go home. I felt so bad for missing a practice, and the kids were all yelling “No, Coach Ty, where are you going?” You start to feel responsible for the kids, so you hate when you can’t be there.
AB: I have seen how much the kids love you and how well you work with the kids. A good CBO should help its youth think towards the future. Have you thought at all about what your future looks like and if it might involve working with you?
CT: Well, all my teachers always tell me I should be a teacher. But I love sports and coaching, so that’s my version of teaching. Being in Project Coach also really makes me want to go to college and then start my own organization to work with kids. I can see me doing this—coaching basketball especially. I always loved sports but now I see more options for working with sports and kids.
AB: If you could help make Project Coach a better organization, what would you change?
CT: We should expand Project Coach to more schools in Springfield. There are a lot of other schools that could also use us as role models. I would also make each session longer. Everyday it seems like we are having so much fun and then it’s already time to go home!
As Coach Ty’s Red Shirt, I can attest to how much fun she has with her kids each session. I can also attest to how valuable I have found Coach Ty’s expertise this semester. Not only is she well versed in all the Project Coach routines and games, she is a skilled and refined leader. At one of the very first sessions, Coach Ty set the scene for the season to come as she laid down the rules, “I only have two rules. The first is to be respectful. That means to listen and to play fairly. The second rule is really important: Have fun!”