Project Coach also is a laboratory for undergraduates and graduate students interested in becoming teachers of urban youth or involved in public policy issues that impact the lives of underserved kids. As a laboratory, we also are very interested in learning from others, and actively seek out and study the strengths and weaknesses of other programs having a similar mission. One such organization that we have watched and admired over the years is the National Urban Squash and Educational Association (NUSEA).
Greg conveyed that when he first started out he wasn’t certain how to do this, but like a parent who learns what his child needs as she grows, he experimented and, with the help of the squash community, added activities and experiences for the kids that would help them to thrive. In talking with Greg a few years ago, well after SquashBusters had become one of the model program in NUSEA, he reiterated that he still did not have a complex “theory of change”, but increasingly ascribed to the idea that different kids needed different things at different times in their lives, and that programs such as his should do their best to help them to get what they need, whatever these things may be.
We at Project Coach are greatful to Greg, as is NUSEA, for helping us all better understand what youth development work is about. In essence, it is not all that complicated, as he shows us that communities need to love (embrace) their youth and provide them with the things that they need in order to thrive. To paraphrase coaching legend Vince Lombardi, we know how to make this happen, but the question becomes whether or not we have the will to do so? As we learn from Greg, and folks like him, they are “forces of nature” who have shown us how one person’s vision and tenacity can make a difference in the lives of so many struggling kids who start out with little chance of competing in a world increasingly favoring those born into the right circumstances. Yet, SquashBuster kids are beating the odds by a large margin. Just take a look at what his kids think about him and the program that he started 20 years ago.