Learning Alongside our Coach-Mentors

I joined the Board of Directors of Active Children Portland because I was looking for a way to give back to communities in my backyard and provide kids who might not otherwise have the same opportunities I did, a chance to learn through sport. Little did I know, when I joined this organization, that I would find something that makes a difference in so many lives with the limited resources they have.

Active Children provides after-school programming to kids in underserved areas of Portland that includes soccer and nutrition. But the organization does much more than that. Active Children and the individuals who serve our kids truly believe in the “comprehensive and holistic approach to youth development” we strive for, something I recently had the chance to see first-hand when I attended our Spring Coach Training.

Since joining the Board, I’ve had the chance to see some of our kids in action and help with the fundraising and management sides of the organization, but hadn’t yet had the opportunity to get to know the incredible coach-mentors who work with our kids.

The training included a full day of education both in the classroom and on the soccer pitch, where our coach-mentors learned best practices for teaching nutrition, soccer skills, creative writing and other aspects of our programming.

The day began with introductions where everyone had a chance to express why they chose to work with the organization and serve as a coach-mentor. The thoughtful and insightful stories from these individuals were inspiring. Some talked about coaches or mentors who had helped them turn their lives around, while others talked about their desire to give back to their communities, while still others wanted to help give kids the same opportunities they did to learn through sports and teamwork.

Active Children’s senior program manager Luis Rodriguez-Bribiesca and program coordinator Hallie Campbell led the group through a 12-week program outline provided by the U.S. Soccer Foundation and explained best practices for getting kids engaged in all aspects of the programming which include sports and fitness, nutrition, creative writing, service learning, and mentoring and engagement.

I was thoroughly impressed by Luis’ ability to anticipate the coaches’ questions and explain how best to work with the kids in all aspects of the programming. He explained the nuances of working with kids who may be facing other challenges at home that could lead to them appearing disengaged with their teams or in the classroom. While each coach-mentor had varying levels of experience working with kids in various capacities, he engaged each of them, meeting them where they were at to guide them through the process of learning how to teach kids with external challenges.

It was a truly inspirational day for me. As a Board member, we’re not always as involved in the day-to-day operations of the organization, but the training was a great, first-hand reminder of the incredible work we’re doing as an organization and the fantastic people we have helping educate the kids we work with. Thank you to our amazing staff and coach-mentors for allowing me to join you for the day.

I look forward to seeing our fully-trained coach-mentors in action this season and wish them the best with their spring season!

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