The Volunteer Center Fellows are proud to award Coaching Corps at UCLA with the Spring 2014 Mongelli Award for Excellence in Civic Engagement. Coaching Corps is a national movement that builds and strengthens communities via sports education. They achieve this specifically by approaching low-income elementary schools that cannot afford sports services and offering to develop the students’ sports skills.
Since its initial installment at UCLA 3 years ago, Coaching Corps has come a long way, now boasting a total of 16 chapters nationwide. Most of Coaching Corps’ chapters are in California, though there are also chapters at Emory University, the University of Denver, and Harvard University. The UCLA chapter was the recipient of the ‘Chapter of the Year’ award this year, a testament to the work and progress they have made since their inception.
Coaching Corps focuses their attention on children ranging between 7-12 years of age, meaning a vast majority of them are from elementary schools or organizations such as Boys and Girls Club and YMCA. The coaches are UCLA students who are skilled in their field and passionate about giving back to the youth of our community through their love for sports. Though sites vary from season to season based on the sport and the coaches available, more often than not, Coaching Corps returns to the same sites each year. Coaches have the choice of serving their beneficiary schools based on their preference of sport. Popular sports taught to date include football, soccer and basketball. They also have the option of coaching at an after-school program (about 1-2 times per week) or with a recreational team. Coaching Corps provides every volunteer with a training program, which eases the transition from one’s interest to actual coaching.
When asked about the impact Coaching Corps has on the community, Garrett Yacovone, current President of UCLA’s chapter, commented on the fact that many sports are ingrained in and heavily influence our culture. From the World Cup to the PAC 12 Championships, there are endless opportunities available for people to connect with sports. Coaching Corps, then, views its role as providing a safe environment to empower kids’ participation, while allowing them to grow both physically and mentally – all while having fun! The after school program in particular is noted for opportunities for coaches to develop relationships with their kids. Yacovone recounts an incident when he went to a classroom to pick up his kids for coaching, and one kid was already wearing his soccer shoes. Through these experiences, he sees the importance of Coaching Corps and building long lasting bonds of friendship with the children. He also notes that the organization has a 60 to 40 percent male to female ratio. With a sizeable number of female coaches, Yacovone hopes to debunk notions of gender stereotyping attached to participating in sports and encourages more female children to join in the coaching sessions.
Apart from visiting sites on a regular basis, Coaching Corps hosts “Take your Team to College” Day– a program they have been pioneering with UCLA Recreation and the Santa Monica Boys and Girls Club to give their coachees a tour of UCLA’s Hall of Fame. This helps coaches begin a dialogue about the impact sports can have in building professionalism, team spirit, determination, and character- all qualities which are central in encouraging success beyond the sports arena. Many coachees come from difficult backgrounds, but having such an experience gives them hope of going to college.
To ensure good relations are fostered between all volunteers, Coaching Corps has also implemented a mentorship program that matches each member of their executive leadership team to four or five volunteer coaches. Aptly named ‘Coach Huddles’, these groups foster peer mentorship and support, while Coach Appreciation Nights provide an avenue for social activity outside their volunteer work. Inter-chapter communication is also prioritized. All chapters of Coaching Corps attend a yearly retreat in San Francisco, where they come together to discuss their programs and share methods they use to develop coaches. Their conversations are also geared toward strategic development in the areas of volunteer recruitment and building relationships with partner sites.
Coaching Corps is dedicated to maintaining and building a network of people engaged to their cause. They currently market their organization via word of mouth, flyers, tabling at activities fairs, and on social media. In future, the UCLA chapter is looking to expand their membership base, be more of a name on campus, and be more independent from headquarters. For instance, the Coaching Corps headquarters currently handles volunteer placements, but once their member base has expanded sufficiently, the UCLA chapter hopes to process volunteer applications and conduct allocations themselves. They also hope to increase the number of sports offered for coaching, as volunteers have expressed interest in cross country, swimming, running, surfing, swimming, and dance.
For their commitment to creative outreach and mentoring through athletics, the UCLA Volunteer Center Fellows have chosen Coaching Corps at UCLA as one of the recipients of the Spring 2014 Mongelli Award for Excellence in Civic Engagement.