A Day in the Life of a SCLA Coach
Day 1: Student-Athletes Arrive!
Being a part of the new staff is a great feeling. After a five-day intensive and exhausting training, I felt a great feeling of comfort and ability with the staff and curriculum. One of the things I love about SportsChallenge is the drive and commitment of the coaches and the challenge it poses to the staff. Executive Director Jeremy Edwards challenges the staff to be high energy, dedicated, approachable, positive, and excellent for 9 days around the clock. For a new staff member, that task is quite daunting and nerve wrecking. For the 4 nights before the kids arrive, the entire staff is in the office making door tags, organizing binders, studying the curriculum, and learning everything they can about their players and advisees before they arrive.
When the student-athletes finally arrived at noon on July 7, the staff kicked into high gear. As a first year staff member, I was astounded by the energy that seemed to flow effortlessly through all of the veteran staff. They welcomed the kids with high fives, helped move luggage, point out living arrangements, helped with registration, and made every aspect of arrival flow as smoothly as possible. My nervousness began to subside with every “Thanks, Coach!” and “3 claps” that the staff do every time they pass each other.
When evening leadership forum came around, I felt like one of the kids in the audience as the staff performed skits that debunked leadership myths – leaders are born, leaders are loud and charismatic, leaders have a title and there is one right way to lead. I laughed as my fellow coaches enacted a skit showing that leaders are not born, instead they develop skills that enable them to lead effectively.
Throughout the staff training, I kept hearing the phrase, “The kids give you the energy to make it through the week.” I did not fully understand that phrase until after the first day of the Summer Academy. When I otherwise would have wanted to go to bed, as soon as I saw the faces of the kids working hard, smiling, laughing, learning and getting to know each other, I was reenergized and ready to take on any challenge. As coaches, teachers, mentors, and advisors, we are pushed to our limit, but watching the kids improve on and off the court is worth the challenge.
Day 2 + 3: Process, Plan & Positive
“Hey, Coach!” “Hey, Coach Scott!””What’s Up, Coach?” These are the statements I hear everyday that fill my heart. After day 2 at the Summer Academy, the kids are noticeably fatigued at Vitamins and in their Leadership and Sports Psychology classes, however their faces are vibrant with smiles and laughter as they take in the curriculum and get to know their peers from around the country.
Day 2’s theme was RISK and Day 3’s was Vision. As a perpetual learner, I tried to learn from the kids as they talked about their risks and visions. Some wanted to take a risk and get to know others outside of their sport. Others envisioned themselves as college athletes and pushed themselves even harder at Vitamins. As a teacher of Practical Skills for School and Business, I also pushed myself to take risks in the by being flexible with the lessons and working with new media. When the kids would talk about their visions and how they worked to achieve their goals, their determination inspired me to workout even harder as I enter my senior season of college athletics and school.
The great thing about SportsChallenge is that the lessons we are teaching the kids are applicable to everyone. From SMARTER goal-setting, to grit, to vision, these themes are great for everyday life no matter what the age. After the goal-setting lesson, I challenged my college teammates to set SMARTER goals for themselves during the offseason. If the kids can do it, why can’t you? Day 4’s theme is GRIT. The kids are working hard and persevering and with the GRIT challenge they are taking it to the next level.
Three days down, six to go; BRING IT ON SPORTSCHALLENGE!
Day 4 + 5: A Life Changing Experience
Today I had one of the greatest experiences of my week thus far -- a simple lunchtime chat. At mealtimes, coaches usually sit a different tables mixed amongst the kids. Today, I wandered to lunch a little late after cleaning up and debriefing my Practical Leadership for School and Business class. I was able to sit next to a girl’s soccer player and have a great conversation. She asked me about my college experiences, what classes to take, the schedule, dorm life, and how to choose a college according to size. Not only did I feel privileged to be able to talk to this remarkable student, I was astounded by her drive and vision. She is only a rising 10th grader and is already set on getting into a good college and going to medical school afterwards. It is so humbling to be able to share my experience and insight with student-athletes and know that my words are heard.
I was able to learn as much from her as she was able to learn from me. I learn from every student I come in contact with. Their hopes, dreams, fear, challenges, and everything in between makes me smile and gives me a reason to wake up every morning at 6:30 for Vitamins. A lot of the kids at SportsChallenge do not come from simple backgrounds. Their stories are inspiring and their attitudes show the resilience of the human spirit. Everyone feels the feeling of positivity at SportsChallenge as we all push ourselves mentally and physically every single day.
The kids here are truly amazing. In order to get to this point, they have filled out applications, been interviewed, and after acceptance have been pushed every single day from morning until night. Yet, at the end of the day, they still yearn for more. They love talking to the coaches, to the staff, to me. And we love it too. I look forward to meal times and times to truly get to know the kids as we learn from each other and grow everyday. Skills for Sport. Skills for Life.
Here we go Day five and Theme of the Day Empathy!
Day 5 + 6: The Transformation
There is never a dull moment when working with high school students at the Summer Academy. Even on our “rest day” kids are up and moving by 8. Without early morning Vitamins, morning class, or morning athletic session, the kids were able to enjoy some free/rest time. Some slept in, others got extra gym time, and some were able to watch a movie. Unable to sleep in, I joined the movie crowd and watched Remember The Titans. As I watched the movie that I have seen at least 30 times, I began to look at it through the eyes of a high school athlete. The movie references leadership often, especially in the times of adversity.
For the first time, I was able to connect the ideas of leadership and adversity in a very real way. In the eyes of many of the programmers, Remember the Titans is just a great movie. But after looking at it through new eyes, I realized that it is much more than that. Our unique group of kids face adversity every single day. For some of them, just getting to SportsChallenge is difficult. Yet, at the end of SportsChallenge, they leave here with more than a great experience, they leave with a SportsChallenge family. Much like the team in the movie bonds in a tough time, these kids hold each other up through three-a-day practices and three-a-day classes. They celebrate leadership and friendship every night with appreciations in Evening Leadership Forum. They come together and chant “family” in their huddles and cheer for their teammates in SC Games.
Just as the Titans had a transformational experience, I am able to watch as these kids grow and improve in front of my eyes. Any coach will tell you, there is nothing better than seeing the joy on a kid’s face when they finally master a skill. With two days left, our impact is not over and coaches will definitely make these last few days count.
Days 7-9: We Challenge You!
I cannot believe the 2012 Summer Academy has come to a close. The kids were absolutely amazing and I was so sad to see them go, but so proud of the improvements they had made athletically and as a leader. Across the board, the kids had become more open to different people, learned new leadership tools, and progressed as athletes and members of a team. I remember my final day of the Practical Skills for School and Business class as I watched one of my students give a presentation in front of her peers. Whereas on the first day she was nervous and fidgety, she proved to be confident and knowledgeable and made great strides as a presenter and leader. I was so happy for her and for all of the kids!
SportsChallenge provides a safe and encouraging space for growth as evidenced by every single student-athlete in the program. Not only do the kids grow and transform, so do the staff. I feel so privileged to have the opportunity to meet and talk to all of the kids and staff members I encountered. They reminded me everyday to be humble, open-minded, to challenge myself, and to improve. Over the course of the 9 days, I grew as a teacher, mentor, friend, and person with every lunch conversation, Vitamins session, and evening forum. As a staff member, I grew as a professional in sharing experiences and learning tactics from those more experienced than I. As a teacher, I learned from my students as much as they learned from me. As a person, I learned to enjoy every moment of the Summer Academy through fatigue, stress, and anything else thrown my way. The Themes of the Day were perfect. We all took risks, had vision, displayed grit, showed empathy, were mentally tough, communicated effectively, and preserved through the challenges. As we leave the Summer Academy, we take these themes with us and challenge ourselves to be better at everything we do going forward.
After the final ceremony, hugs and goodbyes were shared amongst the kids, coaches, and staff. It is no doubt the lives of the kids were transformed, but I also thank them for transforming me. Thanks SportsChallenge, until 2013!
This daily blog post about the 2012 Summer Academy is written by SportsChallenge's Leadership Development Fellow Raven Scott. Raven is a rising senior at Millsaps College in Jackson, Mississippi where she is a member of their Women's Volleyball team and was an Academic All-SCAC selection.
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