Tuesday, November 22, 2011

The Impact of Project Coach in Shaping Student and Coach Identity

Yesterday marked the final day of tutoring before Thanksgiving break. Huddled around a square table in the Chesnut Middle School library, Taylor and I assisted coaches Jon and Loeb put the final touches on their creative English assignments. Their project entailed transforming a simple manila folder into a suitcase that told a story of their individual lives. On the outside, they listed what they considered to be the four most crucial aspects of their identity. Both Coach Jon and Coach Loeb, after the categories of "Student" and "Son" proudly preserved an area on the folder that read, in big black letters, "COACH."

In talking with Jon about why he'd chosen "COACH" as one of the defining characteristics in his life, I began to feel just how profoundly the experience of Project Coach has impacted his sense of self. Next to a skillfully sketched drawing of a coach mentoring a young player, Jon's words spoke for themselves: "Through being a coach, I've learned to be responsible, organized, and mature." It was evident from Jon's carefully articulated thoughts how much being a mentor to young athletes in his community has not only shaped his identity but his intrinsic sense of self-worth and value. "Yeah, I'm a coach-- they look up to me. That's it!" he joked playfully. "When you've got other people looking up to you, that changes everything." Listening to Jon's reflection on his own role in Project Coach has given me pause to take a step back and reconsider my role as a redshirt in the lives of the coaches and players I interact with everyday. It sparked a sharp sense of solidarity between the blueshirts and myself, and the other redshirts in the program-- day in and day out, we all wear "many hats"-- student; coach; son/daughter; sister/brother; friend; teammate; teacher-- we are never just one thing. Hearing Jon so affectionately describe the way being a coach has impacted his sense of self sparked a new awareness in my own role as a mentor figure in the lives of my blueshirts, friends and family. I guess we're always learning something new about ourselves through sharing perspectives with those around us!

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