How does an after-school program help its kids succeed not only on the court, but also off the court and in their classrooms? Project Coach has brought in Mike Dean to help make that success happen for their coaches.
Mike is Project Coach’s Academic Coach, a position given just this year. He has been with PC for 3 years and became involved after hearing about it from his rugby teammate, none other than Andy Wood. Mike and Andy both share an English accent and thus quickly bonded. Mike was very interested in PC and eagerly became involved and began working with team bonding at the start of the program for the teens. He is currently attending Berkshire and Holyoke Community Colleges studying physical education with a teacher preparation and a focus on movement sciences, and is hoping to transfer to Springfield College in the fall. He is minoring in health, coaching, and YMCA preparation. Needless to say, Project Coach and Mike are a good match!
When asked what Project Coach means to him, he responded, “From the outside, I really like the program. I like what it does for all three parties involved—the young kids, the teens, and the graduate students. The young kids come in, can play with older teens in their own community, and learn about sports as well as health. The teens broaden their horizons, learn how to work with younger kids, and become mentors. For the grad students, they can apply what they learn inside the classroom to the real world, and see how they, as graduate students, can create leaders out of teenagers”. On a more personal level, Mike, in interacting with the high schoolers himself, sees what aid he and the program can give to the students that they wouldn’t be receiving without Project Coach. “Project Coach gives them responsibility and enables them to learn how to take initiative”.
So what exactly does an Academic Coach do? Mike brings with him a white notebook that holds a sheet on every high school student along with a copy of the student’s most recent grades. On this sheet are the coach’s name, age, the student’s challenges, goals, and benefits to be received from completing these goals. All these categories are completed at his frequent and reoccurring meetings with each coach.
At these meetings, Mike pulls one coach aside at a time and begins a conversation. He shows them their sheet from their last session and they review it together, as Mike discusses with the teen what progress has been made and what goals may need to be revisited. Looking in on a meeting with Coach Stephen:
Mike asks, “How have your classes been going?”
Stephen answers with a smile, “I just got an 100 on my math quiz”.
Mike: “And how’d that feel?”
Stephen: “Great! I started dancing!”
Mike: “As you should, I got a good grade just recently on my psychology test and I shouted ‘Yeah’!”
Mike not only gives each student advice in how to improve academically, he also relates to the teens and shows them he truly cares about their success. He also does not give them answers, but he asks them how they think they can improve and helps them in developing their own concrete solutions.
Mike: What can you do to improve in class?
Ismael: Pay more attention in class.
Ismael: Stop talking.
Mike: And how will you do that?
Ismael: Sit away from friends.
Mike: Give me specific location.
Ismael: In the front, closer to the teacher.
Mike’s effort to show the teens he cares is very apparent, and the kids react positively with smiles and sincere promises to reach the goals them and Mike develop.
So, how does Project Coach help its kids succeed off the court? It provides the students with a constant supporter who they know is continually watching their academics and checking in with them. Mike is a figure in their lives to keep pushing them forward and to remind them that they are capable of accomplishing any goal. Success happens when someone believes in you.
By Marie Wallace