Submitted by Gary SimroseNVSS Athletic Director
There are many ideas and clichés related to this topic. We have all heard and likely repeated various quotes, myths, sayings and expressions related to striving to attain goals; “…decide…commit…succeed…”, “…follow your dreams…”, “teamwork makes the dream work” are a few examples. Pete Carol, Seattle Seahawks coach, once said, “Each person holds so much within themselves that needs to be let out. Sometimes they just need a little nudge, a little direction, a little support, a little coaching and the greatest things can happen.” On some level, we all understand the value in this process of having goals to work toward.
Regardless of the particular sports that fuel the passion in the school and community sports realm, it is this process of dreaming then setting and striving toward goals that is valuable for our students and youth to practice, more so than the actual results this brings and definitely not because they are all going to turn professional in their chosen sport. Developing leadership, teamwork and persistence or drive qualities is a lifelong benefit as well. Various research and literature support the concept that individuals with sport training backgrounds are more sought after and more trainable employees across the entire continuum in the workforce. These persons also tend to be promoted quickly into a management stream.
As multi-sport athlete at Nechako Valley Secondary (NVSS) and national level speed skater Matthew Ebert indicates, “Sport has given me a healthy, athletic lifestyle. The training has helped me attain an elite level of fitness. It has taught me how to work hard, set goals, be persistent and face challenges. My involvement in team sports has shown me how to work with people and has given me leadership skills. Sport has molded me into the person I am today.”
Emma Floris, another student athlete at NVSS involved in various sports and excelling at several sports including sprinting, had this to say about the strengths her involvement in sport has helped her to build. “Sports have taught me about teamwork, fair play, citizenship, self-confidence, fitness and the responsibility to give back to help sports continue just as someone has done for you. These are traits that I will carry with me for the rest of my life.”
Kaitlyn Verduzco, sharp shooter for the senior girls’ basketball team and cross country running star for NVSS, discussed the value of her sport experience. “Sports have given me a great look at how it feels to live a healthy lifestyle and I definitely want to continue with that. It’s shown me that I want to give back to sports and still be involved as an adult working in the field of kinesiology. I have done nothing but gain confidence, leadership abilities and a strong work ethic from sports. That will help me for the rest of my life!”
NVSS student, Sydney Andres, discussed the connection between sports and succeeding in other parts of life as well. “I’ve learned you have to sacrifice time to give your knowledge about the sport to younger kids. I can give all the skills, drills and habits that have helped me succeed back to the community. Sport helped me with confidence, dealing with pressure and being mentally tough in hard situations. It allowed me to build habits that help me deal with stress and pressure in positive ways and focus on the task at hand no matter what.”
Rising star in figure skating as well as volleyball and member of this years’ graduating class, Abby Delisle, credits participation in sport as having “impact on the rest of my life in many ways. I now have the skills to help coach in the future if I want to. I also know the importance of staying fit and will always lead a healthy lifestyle. Sports also boosted my confidence because you can see improvement in yourself and it feels good! My coach has been extremely positive with me which has helped me a lot outside of sports.”
Another fantastic benefit of this process is the opportunity for volunteers and coaches to build relationships with these athletes as they help them experience this process. These lifelong connections are very important and meaningful. Talk with anyone that spent multiple seasons playing any sport during their life and they will be able to name a coach or an assistant and speak warmly of how much that person means to them. An outstanding athlete in wrestling at NVSS, Jesse Raymond, speaks warmly of his coach and says, “Mr. ‘H’ has made a huge impact in my life…I think of him as a father figure.” Jesse also recognizes sport has allowed him to focus on positive aspects of life and avoid negative influences, stating that he would “probably be doing nothing good” with his time if not involved in sports. “Sport has made me confident with every aspect of myself and has given me a great work ethic!”
Long-time coach at NVSS, Vaughn Mueller says, “A friend once told me that coaching is all about relationships. If you establish those strong ties you can make a difference in a kid’s life!”
These volunteers are often asked why they do it with so much time, effort, work and personal sacrifice required. Eran Bach, a veteran Gr. 10 wrestler at NVSS, had these sage thoughts to share about helping out and leadership, “If you want a sport to stay in a community, you have to be willing to help out whether that is coaching or just going and encouraging the younger athletes. That’s what keeps the players around and that’s what keeps them passionate for the sport.”
Travis Himmelright, wrestling coach at NVSS, was quick to respond to this question about why you would coach. “Someone did it for me when I was young.” So there is a sense of obligation, recognizing the time and commitment of those that have volunteered and coached in the past and how valuable that was for the athletes being coached. Upon further reflection, coach Himmelright mentioned the athletes, how they improve physically and emotionally. “As fitness and skill levels improve they become more competitive. This improves their confidence and self-concept which leads them to set more challenging goals to strive for. This confidence spills over into other parts of their lives and it becomes an upward spiral. The connection between effort and positive change often becomes more visible and student athletes build this into their lives…this is a good thing!”
Sport volunteers and coaches are indispensable parts of the sporting community fabric and provide incalculable benefit to each and every athlete they work with. The most important benefit is just being there to support the activity, allowing it to happen and the athlete to be involved — without these volunteers it would not happen. Many are hesitant to get or stay involved because they feel under-qualified to teach the skills or, sadly, because they felt criticized or otherwise persecuted by a parent or another person who complained but was not willing to volunteer. These are far from the most important reasons to be, or not be, a coach or volunteer. NVSS student athlete Jordan Andres says of the coaches, “They see the potential in us and push us to do our best which is often way beyond what we thought we could do. They teach you what you need to know and they help you grow off of it and give you confidence to set goals and then have the drive and work ethic to achieve them.”
There are training, learning and mentorship benefits for volunteers in addition to the life-long connections made with athletes, coaches or other members of the sporting community. National Basketball Association coach Phil Jackson, winner of more championships than any other coach in the history of that league, states, “I think the most important thing about coaching is that you have to have a sense of confidence about what you are doing. You have to be a salesman and you have to get your players, particularly your leaders, to believe in what you are trying to accomplish.”
Mueller says, “For me, coaches made all the difference in my life. Competitive sport kept me in school. It taught me work ethic and to set goals, but most of all, it helped me develop self-esteem and confidence. I have had the privilege of having fantastic coaches in my life! They have taught me so much more than just Basketball or Running. They taught me sacrifice, humility, commitment, perseverance, resilience, patience and work ethic. All of my coaches from grade school to post-secondary had significant impact on shaping who I am today. They were friends, mentors and teachers.” Mueller also mentions, “I used to think that my high school and collegiate playing days were some of the best days of my life. As I took up coaching, I discovered a new passion, helping kids discover what I grew to love! There is something wonderful about watching the light come on in a kid when they discover something amazing and magical in themselves. Their smile, their confidence and demeanor completely change. It is then you know that you have made a difference in a kid’s life…you have given back what someone has given to you.”
If you are involved as a volunteer or coach, congratulations and thank you. If you would like to get involved or return to volunteering, contact your local school or sport organization and they will welcome and help you.
Young athletes do have a lot of fun training for and playing sports. They meet new friends and develop connections with a variety of peers. They experience fitness and health benefits that often follow them throughout their lives. Athletes and those that spend a lot of time involved in sports develop improved time management abilities and are often more focused academically, both during class time and for homework. Teamwork, cooperation and leadership abilities are all facilitated through sport participation as well. Confidence, character, self-concept, passion for success and zest for life are all typically strengthened with sport experience. One of the greatest coaches of all time, John Wooden, once said, “Be more concerned with your character than with your reputation because reputation is simply what others think of you whereas character is who you really are — what you do when nobody else is watching you.”
If you are involved in sports then well done, keep it up. If you would like to get involved with a sport you currently are not then go for it! Contact your recreation department, your school office or sport/athletic director. Join the fun! Get involved! Live!