Skippers vital to youth sports
February 12, 2009
When the Spurs beat the Celtics in a recent basketball matinee matchup, the audience cheered wildly - despite the fact that Tim Duncan, Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Tony Parker never took the court.
The stars of the game were 6 and 7-year olds participating in Fort Jackson's Youth Sports Winter Basketball league.
The Spurs are coached by Marcus Anderson, one of about 50 community members who volunteer each year to coach youth sports on post. For Anderson, who started coaching in 2006, it is a labor of love.
"I love sports," Anderson said. "I have a son myself; he's 6 years old. I coached his team. I had to get to practice anyway, so I coached and fell in love with it."
In addition to basketball, Anderson coaches football, baseball and any other sport in need of volunteer coaches. The most important lesson he tries to teach the children is that in order to be successful, they have to work as a team.
"Some kids start off (playing like) individuals at first, but I teach them the team sport concept," he said. "It takes a team to win the game, not an individual."
The key to being an efficient youth coach is patience, Anderson said.
"It takes a whole lot of patience, especially when the kids don't want to listen to you in the beginning," he said.
However, the rewards of coaching outweigh its challenges.
"The biggest reward is just seeing the kids enjoying themselves," Anderson said. "As long as the kids enjoy themselves, I'm happy - whether we win or lose."
Being a coach offers rewards of a different kind too, said Craig Plowman, Youth Sports director. Youth Sports registration fees for a coach's first child are waived and any additional child gets a 50 percent discount.
To maintain a high standard in coaching, volunteers undergo training before setting foot in the gym or on the field.
Plowman explained that the Army mandates that all youth coaches are certified with the National Youth Sports Coaches Association. To get certified, prospective coaches have to watch a film and take a written test. The Army covers the fee for the accreditation.
In addition, background checks are performed on everyone who volunteers and coaches have to take classes about child abuse.
Plowman emphasized the importance of volunteer coaches.
"This program would not exist without volunteer support," he said. "We welcome any adult, whether they have any children or not."