Welcome to Volunteer Week here at Meaningful Connections! No, I’m not talking about the Tennessee Volunteers, even though they smoked our Hokies at the Battle at Bristol last weekend. We were camping at Belle Isle, one of Virginia’s amazing state parks during the game. Mr. Jenn and Lil’ P. had backed our truck up to the fire pit to listen to the game while they roasted marshmallows. State parks, while they’re great for getaways, have no TV reception whatsoever. When the radio revealed the first of many Hokie turnovers, poor Mr. Jenn got so upset that he caught poor P’s marshmallows on fire. But I digress.
I’m talking about ut prosim—the Virginia Tech motto. For those of you not living under a Hokie stone, it’s Latin for that I may serve. I don’t mean serving up a football on a silver platter at the 8 yard line, either. This is about community service. Many of you are involved in more committees and boards than you can count—whether you’re raising money for cancer research through Relay for Life, volunteering at the library, or driving one of those awesome little Shriner cars, you’re already giving back more than your fair share. You heroes make us parent types who are trying to balance kids and work while keeping a marginally sanitized house feel a little bit guilty. But don’t despair, Parental Units! Your local Parks and Recreation athletic supervisor has plenty for you to do in your thirty-five seconds of weekly free time. Here are five reasons why coaching a Parks and Recreation kid sport might just light your marshmallows on fire in a good way.
You can bring your kids.
It may be frowned upon to hide your children under the circulation desk at the local library while you volunteer. Your children may pass out at an all-night Relay for Life event. You can’t exactly hide your kid in the boot of one of those cool Shriner cars. BUT, you can volunteer in your community and hang out with your children if you coach their sports team. Bonus: you get to hang out with everyone else’s kid, too.
You can learn a new sport.
When our athletic supervisor asked me to coach my son’s four-year-old soccer league team, I had less of an understanding of the sport than a state park has TV reception. I vaguely remembered making clover chains near a soccer goal when I was a little kid. I think a ball was in play then, but I can’t be sure. When I relayed this information, our supervisor reassured me that all I had to do was kick the ball around with them and introduce them to the sport. After all, I was a teacher, right? Didn’t that certificate come with a degree in advanced cat herding? I agreed, but only if my dad could help me. I needed a back-up herder, since he had more than proven his prowess with Lil’ P., my four-year-old wall climber. After attending the coach meeting, learning a few tips, memorizing concussion symptoms, and pinning about 6,000 U5 soccer drills on Pinterest, we were almost like experts who only kicked the ball in the wrong goal occasionally.
You meet really nice people eager to bring you food.
In my experience, four-year-old soccer parents are super nice people. They show up with cameras, take a million happy pictures, and are quite delighted to have a spot on the snack schedule. They always bring leftover graham cracker teddy bears for the coaches, as well. Sometimes, they even slipped me a Diet Coke. Team moms are amazing like that. My friend, Bitsy Riffe, is a serial team mom. I’ve never seen one human work a phone list quite like she does. Parents do get competitive as kids get older, but for the most part, they are very supportive and appreciative. When my husband and my dad coached youth football together, all the parents had to sit through a sportsmanship video in order for their kids to participate. These little lessons kept everyone in line and made the end-of-season pizza night civil and fun.
You get excited.
When I asked my 75-year-old father what his favorite thing about coaching was, he said, “I loved watching the kids get involved and seeing the looks on their faces when they did something well.” My friend and fellow teacher, Tara Lord, who coaches both her four-year-old daughter’s wiffle ball and soccer teams, agrees.“Coaching the four-year-olds is satisfying for me because they make me stop and realize the fun and importance of things! It helps energize me by seeing their excitement and love of learning something new. Plus it’s nice to have them look up to me like I’m a professional,” she joked. She is so right. As long as you keep it moving, four-year-olds will play with you all day long like you’re a soccer super hero, even if you don’t know a forward from a fullback. If you stop to explain too much, however, they will remove all the sod from your field and throw it at each other. I turned around at one practice to talk to another coach with whom we were sharing a practice field, and I had three kids balanced upside down on their soccer balls and my own kid had two handfuls of grass he’d ripped out of the ground poised to heave at the other team.
- You get to hang out with your favorite folks.While I love spending time with my own children and watching them enjoy being active, the best part of coaching four-year-olds was watching my dad in action with all the kids. When he would sit on the ground to talk with them after one of our 45 minute practices, all these little people would pile on top of him like he was a bean bag. They thought Coach Pawpaw was the coolest dude around.Every Saturday, now that I’m assistant coaching both my kids and their best friends in the 6-8 year old league, I get to look across the field and see all my people gathered in support of our kids. Yes, coaching can be hot and sweaty, or cold and miserable some days. It takes time and dedication. Turnovers happen on the eight yard line, and children forget which goal is theirs. But when you watch a kid learn a new skill, extend a hand to player on the other team who got hurt, or own up to the ref about kicking the ball out of bounds, it’s all worth it.The next time you get an itch to serve, come on down to the park and play with us. You never know—that kid on your team learning to throw a football, kick a soccer ball, or whack a wiffle ball, might just be a future Hokie. Let’s just hope we teach them to hold on to the ball when they wind up at Bristol!This post is linked to the Best of the Blogosphere Link Party.