Sunday, February 12, 2012

An 8th grader writing about Project Coach

We have many cross-cutting goals in Project Coach. We strive to provide leadership opportunities for the teenagers that work with us as coaches and enriching educational and athletic experiences for the elementary aged players. As community members, our commitment is to employ local youth and provide them with opportunities to impact their community. As a 'lab' for Smith College we also intend to prepare college and graduate students to be teachers and key leadership staff in the out-of-school world. As faculty and researchers, we intend to learn from the enterprise and share our understandings through writing and presenting at conferences.

All of the above is critical, but we also strive to be advocates for the transformative power of sport. As advocates, we try and influence the dialogue and political processes around what youth sport can do for young people and the formidable impact that out-of-school programming has on young people. 

Here is an interesting story of how our many roles come together. An 8th grader from Northampton is assigned a persuasive essay to write. He chooses to write on the role that youth sports can play in helping youth, and in particular, inner-city youth succeed in life. As you can see Project Coach takes on a formidable role in the essay. Enjoy-- and remember, it's written by a 13-year old.

By Casey, 13 John F. Kennedy Middle School, Northampton, MA
English: Persuasive Essay
Period 5
All Sports for All People: The Effect of Sports
in the Lives of Inner-City Kids

            “Sports give me and other young people in my community a safe haven to feel secure and feel like there's not a care in the world,” said Ktrice McNeill who grew up in a tough New York City neighborhood, and recently received the 2011 Coach Across America Coach of the Year award.  For inner-city kids, sports can be their only escape from the difficulties they may face on a daily basis. Sports offer an outlet where they can put aside their problems for a couple hours everyday to have fun and compete. Not only that, but it can have a positive effect on them in the classroom, and their community, and by doing so give themselves a greater chance to succeed in the rest of their lives. For these reasons and more, I believe that it should become a priority to provide more athletic opportunities for inner-city kids.
            Considered by many to be one of the best players in the NBA, Derrick Rose went from growing up in the most crime-ridden district of Chicago to NBA stardom. This is just one of the many storybook tales of a kid overcoming the odds and living their dream. However, Rose not only changed his life by doing this, but he affected the lives of many others by giving them the inspiration to never give up and reach for their dreams. The lack of programs that give inner-city children the chance to play sports, especially if they don’t show an exceptional talent for sports at an early age, limits their possibilities. The imbalance of this is so severe that one study conducted by the Harvard School of Public Health found that “urban youth have one-third the opportunity to participate in sport than their suburban counter- parts.” Rose was lucky enough that he stood out from the rest from the time he started playing. We can’t have the programs being focus on just the “special athletes,” or on the more privileged youth. We need to start by providing for the majority of the population, the typical athletes, and the kids who don’t have anywhere else to play organized sports. Once we are able to offer programs to the bulk of the inner-city kids, then we can avert our attention to the kids who may have careers in sports. This is important for creating opportunities for urban youth to play sports and exercise, but sports can also help instill essential qualities in a person that will assist them their whole life.
            Sports is more than just competing and exercise, John Wooden one of the most revered coaches of all time, spent more than 40 years teaching this concept. He was able to lead his teams to unmatched success, while teaching them lessons in life that they would never forget. Wooden did this by creating what he called “The Pyramid of Success,” which is a group of fifteen traits that he believes you need to have in order to reach success in any field. They include loyalty, initiative, self-control, and skill to reach “competitive greatness.” He intertwined his teachings with his coaching in a remarkable way. When his players moved on they left with not only unbelievable accomplishments in their sport, but also with a better understanding of how to achieve success. One of these teachings was that "Success comes from knowing that you did your best to become the best that you are capable of becoming." Not only will sports be capable of providing you with unforgettable lessons in life, but it can also bring together strangers at the park for a game of pick-up, or the entire world for the Olympics and it can unite a group of dejected, disheartened kids into champions within themselves. The power of sports has no end, and to deprive kids of this, which is what is happening to inner-city kids around the world, is appalling. However, this is beginning to change as organizations around the globe, including in nearby cities and towns, start to form and provide the opportunities every child deserves to have. 
Project Coach is a unique organization based in Springfield, Massachusetts that trains and employs high school students from all over the city to be coaches and mentors to elementary-aged children. The program uses sports “to engage, connect, and empower adolescents and youth.” Project Coach is an exceptional program because it teaches teenagers who come from unfavorable neighborhood and family situations invaluable lessons in life, while providing a safe haven for the kids to forget about their troubles and play. These kids cherish this time because, until this program was founded in 2003, there were no sports leagues in most of Springfield due to the inflexibility of parents work schedules. That’s where the idea of using the high school students to coach came in. This provides not for the star athletes, but for the majority of the community. The high school coaches highly value this opportunity. The salary helps put food on the table for their families, and will help create a better future for themselves. One coach talked about the best part of his experience, “Having fun with the kids. The best thing, to me, is the reaction of kids afterwards, when it's the end of Project Coach, and they don’t want to leave." This is a local, exemplary model of a program that provides a structured time for inner-city kids to play sports and develop skills necessary for success in life.
            There is a lack of opportunities for inner-city kids to play sports, and it should become a priority around the world to change that. In the past 10 years we have seen a vast improvement in the United States, with getting nearly twenty million more children involved in organized youth sports. As more people begin to realize this then we will be able to create new programs to generate more opportunities for urban youth, as well as support the already existing organizations. This could also have a positive effect on our country as well with more kids coming into adulthood with an understanding of how to achieve and deal with success.

"FYSI: An Innovative Model for Community Empowerment." Fitzgerald Youth Sports Institute. Fitzgerald Youth Sports Institute. Web. 12 Feb. 2012. .

Isackson, Noah. "Derrick Rose's Leap from Inner-City Baller to the NBA." Chicago Magazine. Web. 12 Feb. 2012. .

"Mission." Project Coach. Web. 12 Feb. 2012. .

1 comment:

  1. To improve the ability of the youth to access post secondary education and benefit from the support services that are available but are often unknown to them.