Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Training New Teen Coaches at Harlem RBI

               For three days, staff from Project Coach and some of our veteran coaches trained a cohort of 25 new teens from Harlem RBI in NYC. The first two days were full of coaching academy lessons on the field, in the gym, and in the classroom. While the thunderstorms tried to deter our outdoor plans, we still managed to give new coaches plenty of repetitions running opening huddles, games based baseball practices, and debriefs. We also taught coaches about the importance of communication, professionalism, feedback, and planning ahead. During the training veteran coaches from Project Coach worked hand in hand with teens from Harlem RBI to help them perfect their coaching voice, game introductions, and character building huddles. On the last day of training, coaches took a written exam and a performance exam. It was really wonderful to see all of the coaches perform an essential component to coaching a practice. They all gave it their full effort and showed vast improvements from our first day of training.

            In addition to training the high school coaches, Project Coach spent time training the staff that would be working with and supporting the teens. Before even meeting the high school coaches, PC staff spent a day with Harlem RBI staff discussing our model, seeing how it fit with their organization, and engaging them in creating baseball games that were fun, active, and would teach kids necessary skills and tactics. During the training of the high school coaches, Harlem RBI staff were instrumental in helping the teens improve, giving them possible games to use, and supporting our work with them. Project Coach also trained fifty college-aged coaches who would be overseeing the work of the teen coaches. PC trained them in our model, how best to supervise the new coaches, and how to use reflections, video, and observation forms to help the teens improve. Overall, these additional trainings will help the teens feel supported, get necessary feedback, and continue to grow during the summer.

            While the trainings were a great experience for our staff and for the teens, they were also empowering for our veteran coaches. The importance of having our veteran coaches there as leaders of this work was not lost on us. As veterans, they remember what it felt like to first take on the challenge of coaching. They also gave amazing input on how the trainings should be run, what to do to truly help new coaches, and how to make it "not like school". One of the sessions they were in charge of, on conflict resolution, had the teens so engaged and excited it seemed as if they were watching their favorite reality TV show.

          While there were many memorable moments, one of the best came on the first day they were coaching youth. A novice coach had just finished running her team through a game called Hot Corners (teaches fielding ground balls, changing directions, attentional control). She came running up to PC staff and said, "Thank you for helping me do this. It was so much fun!" Her spirit really captured the enthusiasm of teens when they are given a real responsibility and trained to coach youth from their communities. One of the supervisors (a Harlem RBI alum) also remarked how much more mature the teens seemed now that they were given this authentic role and allowed to step up as leaders. She said that she wished she had been a coach at that age as she would have taken her summer job much more serious. At the end of the first day, Project Coach staff left feeling like much had been accomplished and the wheels were in motion to have teens at Harlem RBI coaching well, learning about themselves, and creating positive change in their community.

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