My first introduction to soccer was just a few years ago at the Boys & Girls Club of the Peninsula. I was serving as the athletic coordinator at the time when I was approached by the athletic director about a new partnership to start implementing Soccer for Success into our programming. I was nervous to receive this news. I was brought on to coach basketball at the Boys & Girls Club – I knew the sport and I knew how to teach kids who had little previous knowledge about the sport.
But now I was in their shoes. How could I teach soccer to kids when I myself had no soccer experience?
After learning a bit more about the program that we were to start implementing, I, in turn, began to rethink my whole approach to coaching and my role as a coach. I came to realize that it didn’t matter what sport I was coaching so long as I had a positive impact on these kids. So, I decided to give the Soccer for Success coaching model a try.
Once the Soccer for Success season started, I was not as nervous anymore because the curriculum was so easy to teach. Everything is tailor made for you to succeed, for both coaches and participants alike. The kids became extremely excited about healthy eating; talking every day about nutrition has encouraged them to think about implementing these practices into their own lives. They even start off most sessions talking about healthy foods during our opening circle.
Throughout the program, I came to learn not only about myself, but the youth I was teaching. The program gave me a better understanding about the sport, but more importantly, a better understanding of the importance of youth development, regardless of sport. I have become more patient in teaching, I have learned how to reach out to kids, and I have seen that just checking in with them keeps them engaged because they feel cared for and looked after.
I was excited to come to the 2018 Soccer for Success National Training for my second year because, while I have learned a lot during my time as a coach-mentor, I know that there is always more to learn. It was especially impactful to be surrounded by facilitators that I could tell had a real understanding of what the Foundation wants their coach-mentors to know in terms of preparing them to lead the way forward.
This year, there were participants from different countries, different cities, different states. It’s sometimes hard to talk to people because you feel like you don’t fit in or have the same values, but of course you're going to be different because you're from different places. The facilitators set the tone for this year’s event. This is one of the best trainings I’ve been to because everyone has been so humble and approachable, starting at the top. I felt confident to talk to new people and I learned that you don’t have to be more than who you are – a lesson I hope to convey to the coach-mentors I will train to run Soccer for Success in my community.
I am excited to return home and implement what I’ve learned at National Training into my Soccer for Success sessions. It is, after all, the kids who keep me going. The smiles on their faces when they know you care is all I need to know I’m doing my job well.
With over 500 kids and 20 coach-mentors in our local Soccer for Success program, it is imperative that we all get the necessary training so that we can make the biggest possible impact. In a time where kids are not participating in the sport, either due to high costs or to a lack of enjoyment, it is of utmost importance that the coaches receive training that teaches positivity and how to understand the communities they serve. At National Training, all 130 of us were given the tools to succeed in this regard. Not only will I be able to implement best practices that I learned in my Soccer for Success sessions, but I will also be able to use the training I received to positively impact children in all sports that I coach.
There is no shortage of love for the game in my community, which makes it all the more humbling to know that the U.S. Soccer Foundation is entrusting me to advance its mission. The Foundation is providing me with the tools to deliver the training and trusts me to ensure that these kids enjoy a program that is designed to benefit them both physically and personally. To be trusted with such a task is a great feeling.
Andre was one of approximately 130 individuals to attend National Training. They return to their communities ready to train roughly 5,000 coach-mentors who will strive to make a lasting positive impact on 100,000 youth in the 2018-2019 program year. Follow this link to learn more about this year’s National Training. Learn about the important role these coach-mentors play in helping us make soccer #EveryonesGame at itseveryonesgame.org.