Summer Volunteering: Can Coaching Soccer be a Transformative Event?

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Summer Volunteering: Can Coaching Soccer be a Transformative Event?

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Friday, August 26, 2016 - 3:00pm

CONTENT: Blog

We are officially in the dog days of summer – much of North America (even Canada!) is stuck in an endless heatwave. Rain is now one of those things you talk about as if it only happened in the old days. Here at RW HQ, summer always presents a common and modern challenge: how do you juggle the heat, vacations, weddings (you may have noticed one of our own had a name change), summer concerts, activities for kids, and so on with our day-to-day work efforts?

By Corey Diamond

The summer reminds me of how hard it is to fit volunteering into our daily lives. Let’s face it – for most of us, volunteering is on a long list of things we want to do, competing for our attention with a myriad of other priorities. BBQs, patios (it’s a Toronto thing), and reading in a hammock always seem to win out.

But does it really need to be one or the other?

I was at my daughter’s soccer game last night. Before the game, the kids were “warming up” (i.e., doing somersaults), and the coach brought them together in a semi-circle to talk about the upcoming game. The kids took a knee and listened. Positions were doled out, the rules were declared for the 100th time and then everyone got close together for the classic “hands in” cheer. It was a reminder to the kids, assistant coaches, and parents about the importance of their task at hand: above all else, HAVE FUN.

During the game, the coach worked with her assistants to direct traffic, cheer on the kids, and position them according to their skills. Each coach had a specific role: defence, forwards/midfielders, and goalie.

Can coaching soccer be a transformative experience for volunteer coaches? In the process of guiding the players in skill development, confidence, and other life skills, were the coaches themselves changed by the experience?

After the game, another semi-circle was formed and the team reviewed the game together. A lovely tradition of giving out the game ball highlighted the special work of two players in particular. Then, before the teams shook hands, the coach asked the kids a few questions, and they all answered in unison:

“Did you guys have fun today?”

“YES!“

“Did the other team play well tonight?”

“YES!“

“Do you all want a snack?”

“YES!“

I also noticed the coach interact with her assistants after the game, thanking them for sharing the duties that night. They talked about the progress they’re seeing in some of the kids and planned the next practice.

Without even realizing it, my daughter’s coach was demonstrating some of the keystone behaviours found in the transformative model of volunteering, where the primary focus is the change that occurs in the volunteers themselves.

Can coaching soccer be a transformative experience for volunteer coaches? In the process of guiding the players in skill development, confidence, and other life skills, were the coaches themselves changed by the experience?

To be fair, the keystone behaviours RW trains Volunteer Champions to carry out at corporate volunteer events are nuanced, while my daughter’s soccer game does not provide an exact one-to-one comparison. Still, there are some helpful similarities.

Let’s explore a few ways my daughter’s coach made the game meaningful to everyone involved:

  1. The pre-game meeting set the stage and reminded everyone why we were all there.

    This was meant to focus the players on the game, but it also doubled as a way to brief the assistant coaches and parents. In the practice of transformative volunteering, we call this “Framing the Experience”.

  2. During the game, the coach worked with her assistants to bring the best out of the kids.

    By placing the assistants in the right roles, she made it easy for each of them to enjoy the experience and motivate the kids to the best of their abilities. This makes it meaningful for the assistant coaches, and in turn a more fun experience for the kids.

  3. The post-game meeting posed some questions to the kids, and also to the assistant coaches.

    This type of critical reflection is important to make sense of the experience and think about how to apply it to future games, and ultimately to the rest of our lives.

By incorporating these elements, the coach was making it easier for all of us to have a fun and meaningful experience.

The whole (and perfect) evening reminded me that in the midst of a busy, hot summer, we can still find the spaces for transformation to occur. In fact, these spaces may be right in front of us, on a Monday night on a hot soccer field in the middle of the city, or, in fact, anywhere.

And in case you were wondering, the game ended in a tie. Everyone got a juice box.

Could the same happen for your volunteering program? Do you have volunteers in your company that can act like my daughter’s soccer coach and lead their colleagues to spaces where transformation can occur? Are you struggling to motivate your volunteer leaders in the summer? We’d love to hear from you. Reach out to us through Facebook and Twitter, or email us via contact@realizedworth.com

Corey Diamond
Chief Operating Officer
coreydiamond@realizedworth.com
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Keywords: Social Impact & Volunteering | Coaching | Realized Worth | soccer | summer

CONTENT: Blog