It is a coach's dream that at every practice their players are ready to learn and have a desire to improve. However, this is not always the case, because sometimes learning a new sport can be a daunting task. Our kids are nervous and worried and as adults, we sometimes forget how that feels. We spent the past several months at Buffalo Collegiate Charter school with both our soccer and tennis programs. As this first session of programming was ending, the girls completing tennis and the boys completing soccer, the kids were scheduled to switch sports so they could try something new. However, the girl’s coaches heard “Do we have to play soccer?” and the boy's coaches overheard “I don’t want to play tennis” echoing throughout the final practice.
While planning week 7, the final week, the coaches knew they had to create excitement around soccer for the girls and tennis for the boys. After some discussion, the coaches decided, who better to create excitement than their peers. At first, both groups were apprehensive, claiming that since they weren’t coaches they couldn’t possibly teach a sport. With some prompting and guiding questions the girls embraced their roles as the tennis experts; teaching the proper grip and what a forehand and backhand are while encouraging the boys to slow down and keep control of the ball.
When it was time for the girls to learn soccer, the boys gained confidence in their own abilities as they explained the parts of the foot that can be used to strike the ball. One expert demonstrated a pullback while the others gave their peers pointers on how and when to use this move during games.
Standing on the sidelines, jumping in only when needed, it was wonderful to see my athletes sharing what they had learned over the last few weeks and getting excited to learn something new. Not only were they able to realize that they had learned skills over the practices, but more importantly they were learning to lead and help others learn. I hope that the opportunity to learn stays with them. At the end of practice, the girls were eager to jump into soccer and the boys couldn’t wait to start playing tennis- all because their peers helped them to gain some confidence!