For many poverty-stricken children, an opportunity to play youth sports is transformational. It’s usually their coach that does the transforming.
Southwestern College students can now sign up to serve as miracle workers thanks to Coaching Corps, a volunteer program that places college students to serve as football, soccer, basketball and baseball coaches in low-income communities in San Diego County.
Sheilagh Polk, Coaching Corps director of communications, said the organization is always searching for dedicated students who are passionate about kids, sports and volunteering.
“Coaching Corps exists to interrupt the conditions of poverty and ensure that all kids – regardless of where they live – have access to the life-changing benefits of sports and a committed and caring coach,” she said.
Student chapters are in full swing at San Diego State University and the University of San Diego. Southwestern College is Coaching Corps’ next target. An introductory meeting with the SWC ASTRA Club led to the commitment by Professor of Health and Exercise Science and former SWC head football coach Walt Justice to serve as faculty advisor.
Monisha Taylor, a SWC student and a volunteer for the last year and a half at the Jackie Robinson YMCA in San Diego, said her favorite part of a coaching is seeing children’s faces light up.
“Kids can see the enjoyment that you have as a coach and they can have that same enjoyment when they’re out their doing their practices,” she said.
Taylor said that her experience with Coaching Corps helped her become a basketball coach at Mar Vista High School.
Coaching Corps is looking for students to lead flag football, soccer, basketball, softball and swimming teams. Training sessions with experienced coaches will prepare volunteers to take over their own teams.
Robert Johnson, the San Diego Regional Coordinator for Coaching Corps, is a Pop Warner football coach who said he has had youngsters go on to play high school sports.
“I think my favorite part of this is just seeing the relationships that get built with the volunteers, how they connect with the kids and how they are able to be role models for them,” he said. “When I started coaching on my own, I started to see these kids gravitating towards me. Kids were reaching out to me outside of practice and that made me feel like I really am having an impact on them.”
Johnson said the program gives college students an opportunity to give back to the community and to develop leadership skills and responsibility.
Sahar Osmani, president of the Coaching Corps chapter at SDSU, said she wants to share something more than just her time as a volunteer.
“Children growing up today don’t have the privileges that we had growing up, they are not getting the after-school activities or sports we had,” she said. “Physical education is getting cut out of school programs. Getting involved with Coaching Corps allows you to make that difference.”
Passion for sports made her want to start a new chapter, Osmani said.
“I wanted to get more involved,” she said. “I loved the fact that I was coaching, but I wanted to see if I could do more than coach. I decided I wanted to get more people to do it as well.”
She loves to see her kids try out for competitive teams when they are older, Osmani said.
“Just seeing that I had gotten them so riled up and inspired to continue to push themselves to a further limit was when I noticed that those kids had changed my life,” she said. “They changed my life more than I had changed theirs.”