Saturday, February 23, 2013

Umass Basketball Clinic

     The month of January and February may have been a break from regular Project Coach programing at the Springfield elementary schools, but the high school coaches stayed plenty busy during these months between fundraisers, crew training, college visits, project coach training days, and multiple sports clinics at local colleges and universities. As a program we were very grateful to have both Amherst and Umass offer to run basketball clinics this past month and Western New England University offer to run a volleyball clinic with us in this past week. 

     The Umass clinic on February 2, 2013 was especially a treat as we had the Minutemen's home court, the Mullins Center all to ourselves.  The Umass women's team put on a great clinic for our high school coaches and staff in which we went through an array of drills ending with a rather competitive (but friendly) scrimmage. 

We dribbled....

We passed...

We shot around and we scrimmaged...

Some off us even put on our coaching faces and strategized for the "BIG" scrimmage...

And we of course ended the clinic with a Project Coach huddle and cheer...

     Overall we had a lot of fun with the Umass players and coaches, learned some good instructional tips and drills, and the high school coaches also got to ask the players great questions about college life and how they manage to balance school and extracurriculars.  After the clinic the day continued as half of the group went to the Amherst basketball game to support the players who had run a clinic with us in late January, while the other half went on a tour of the Umass campus areas of interest to them with the Umass coaches and some of the Red Shirts.

Friday, February 22, 2013


Last weekend, February 16th and 17th in Ainsworth Gymnasium on the Smith College campus, Anna Hallman sat on her stationary bike and proceeded to ride, direct, coach, and DJ eight hours of spin classes.  This monumental feat of endurance, riding well over 100 miles, is quickly becoming known as "The Ride."  Is Anna Hallman crazy?  The short answer is: maybe.  Anna is a red-shirt-in-waiting, and she wants one thing that a lot of people in Project Coach want--more female coaches in leadership positions.  To do that, we have to match a $5000 grant which will go to paying two new female purple shirts.  So no, Anna isn't entirely crazy, she rode to help raise money to match this $5000 grant.  She wasn't alone, as a slew of Project Coach members joined her for portions of the ride, as well as Smith students and faculty.  The weekend was an incredible success, raising just north of $565 and giving all who rode a great workout.

If you missed us last weekend, there's still plenty of time to donate!  Here's the link:

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Denmark Exchange

Mass Youth Soccer G Level Training for Project Coach and Denmark Coaches

         For the last week and a half, twenty high school girls and ten adult mentors from the group Ready, Steady, Soccer came to visit Project Coach all the way from Copenhagen, Denmark. The group (similar to Project Coach), teaches teenage girls how to coach soccer for youth in their local soccer clubs. As a new initiative in Denmark, the project hopes to bring more females into the sport and help females stay involved in the soccer clubs as they get older. The ten adult mentors all volunteer to work with the girls and help them improve as coaches and as leaders. After setting up host stays for all of the girls and planning for months, Project Coach was more than excited for their arrival. Unfortunately, they arrived just hours before winter storm Nemo began to blanket us in snow. Due to the storm, some of our Friday and Saturday events were cancelled. As a silver lining, many of the girls got to experience some serious sledding! On Sunday, we still held a Mass Youth G Level Coaching Training for the group from Denmark, Project Coach, and some local Northampton teenagers. As the video above shows, it was a fun, active day spent learning techniques and strategies to coach young kids in soccer. The teens really enjoyed learning about ways to coach and learning about each other.

The Danish Girls in Front of College Hall 

      On Monday, the girls went to UMASS to see the large university and meet players and coaches from the college team. Afterwards, they were able to practice with an FC-16 team  (some of whom were girls from the host families). On Tuesday they shadowed at Northampton High School and then ran their own soccer clinic for local girls at Smith College. The clinic was exciting and engaging with stations for fun soccer games (red light, green light) and an obstacle course. Wednesday they spent time in Springfield at one of the high schools many of the Project Coach students attend (Springfield Renaissance). They also visited the Basketball Hall of Fame and then went to Gerena Elementary School to participate in a Project Coach sports session. The PC coaches led them through our volleyball and fitness games with one station for basketball (many of the girls really wanted to play this). At the end we all played a fun basketball game and then ate dinner together. The Danish girls spent Thursday learning about Smith College, the reasons behind it being an all girls school, and shadowing Smith students. At night, the Project Coach teens put on a Valentine's Day celebration (with food, desserts, presentations, and dancing) for the whole group from Denmark, the host families, and Project Coach staff. It was an extremely exciting and engaging celebration and the PC teens did a lot of work to make it a success. After the Denmark group spent a day in NYC they were already on their way to Boston to fly home.
       Many of our Project Coach teens have been in contact with the girls since they left. They have been sharing ideas about coaching, being a teenager, and the possibility of visiting Denmark. While they were here, Project Coach staff presented to the adult mentors on our program, the success we have had, and the way we continue to run a strong youth development organization. The leaders of Ready, Steady, Soccer were eager to share information about our program with their clubs' board members and presidents. We are working into the possibility of bringing our coaches to Denmark next year and are continuing to exchange ideas about youth development and coaching. 

Monday, February 18, 2013

Training Camp Day One

Practicing Fitness and Volleyball Games at Training Camp.

        The first day of training camp is the official start to a new season of Project Coach, and the beginning of our relationship with the new teens entering the program. Today, twenty five teens rode the bus up to Smith College to spend the entire day learning about Project Coach, communication skills, and coaching volleyball and fitness. We started the day with a few ice breakers as many of the coaches were brand new to the program. Then coaches met in their home teams (groups led by one of the Smith College graduate students) to check in and prepare for the day. After that, it was a fast paced, high energy day with lessons on communicating effectively, developing healthy assets, communicating in different contexts, and communicating as a coach. It was wonderful to see returning coaches becoming much stronger communicators than they were just 5 months ago. At the same time it was great to see the new coaches practicing their "coaching voice" and stepping outside their comfort zone. The day really helped establish the key skill in Project Coach -- Communication! 
      Another exciting part of the day came when we discussed how Project Coach works to prepare kids for college and careers. First, students had to act out or perform the mission statement of Project Coach. By performing the mission statement, they learned right away that we focus on communication as a way to prepare them for college. Later, we played College Skills Bingo and discussed all of the workshops and trips PC offers to help students achieve their college goals. Since four members of our veteran coaching staff are in college, they shared some of their experiences with their groups. Our new middle school coaches talked excitedly about already beginning the college process. Altogether, creating a community of learners with college as the goal helps all of our teens reach their potential and prioritize education. 

Huddle after Volleyball Game

     To end the day, coaches rotated through three stations of volleyball and fitness games that they will run with their young players. Since many of the coaches enjoy being active and playing volleyball, this portion brought lots of energy and excitement to the group. The coaches worked on the three steps to a great game introduction: Name and Explain, Model and Demonstrate, and Play and Fix. Using this structure, coaches are able to get the kids playing quickly but also help them play correctly. They practiced incorporating fitness activities into the game to keep the kids active, healthy, and getting great physical exercise while at Project Coach. 
      At the end of the day, coaches completed a formative assessment in their home teams and debriefed their experience. Since we cover so much in one day, we find this is an essential way to review. On Wednesday, when we gather for our second day of Training Camp, we will begin with a review of the objectives and take aways from our first day. By the time programming starts next week, our coaches will be more than prepared! 

YES data

As our first semester of Project Coach came to a close, we asked our kids to fill out the YES (Youth Experience Survey) to gauge how Project Coach was impacting their lives. The YES is a survey given to high schoolers involved in extracurricular activities or community-based programs with the aim of looking at self-reported experiences ranging from teamwork and social skills to interpersonal relationships and adult networks. Since the YES provides an average norm score for teenagers in the nation involved in activities, comparing our teens scores gives Project Coach real feedback on asset development within our program.
This round of the YES revealed some gains when compared to last years data, but more importantly, exceptional results when compared to national results. The way the YES is rated, the lower the number the better. Overall, our Project Coach kids scored lower (better) on every single measure when compared to the national average! Some of the most notable differences between us and the national average were evident in categories such as “Tried New Things” (we scored an average 1.31 next to the national average of 3.1), “Learned to Push Myself” (us: 1.19, nation: 2.98), and “Learned to Focus My Attention” (us: 1.25, nation: 3.07). Other fantastic differences came in categories such as “Made Friends of the Opposite Gender,” “Learned about Helping Others,” and “Learned How my Emotions and Attitude Affect Others in a Group.” All in all, the YES revealed that our coaches are gaining valuable skills and experiences through this program, which is the best result we could have hoped for. We’re excited to keep up the forward momentum in the upcoming Project Coach season!