A distinctive aspect of RYAA is the young age of its coaches and referees. Youth and young adults are given a unique opportunity to engage with kids through soccer.
This year, Maria, an eighth-grade student, was one of our youngest coaches. Maria remembers how, as a preschooler, she asked an older friend what game he was playing. He told her it was called soccer and then took her under his wing and taught her what he knew about the game. As a fifth-grader, Maria heard about RYAA from friends and was longing to play, but unfortunately missed the deadline. Next year, since she had kept her grades up, her Mom agreed to enroll her and Maria played on a real team for the first time. Since then, soccer has been a major part of Maria’s life, and she has dreams of playing in college, either at UC Davis or somewhere in Florida.
This year, Maria decided to try her hand and coaching. Although she could have played soccer without working, Maria was excited about the opportunity. She remembers some initial nervousness at the prospect of coaching, but she related to us mid-season how much it was teaching her.
When asked what she has learned from coaching thus far, without hesitation, Maria answered, “coaching isn’t easy. Kids don’t always pay attention and respect you.” She has been learning to find a balance, being respectful of her players while simultaneously teaching them to respect her authority. She is furthermore learning that “little kids are small but have LOTS of energy!” Even so, she had to constantly figure out how to work them hard without overdoing it.
Coaching soccer has not only taught valuable leadership skills, but has also been a tool through which Maria was able to become more involved in her community. She sees members from her team at school every day, and is now able to greet them by name and ask how they are doing. Not only that, but throughout the season, Maria invited peers to help her coach. Those who helped out at practices and games could receive up to six hours of the community service hours needed to graduate. Many of her friends agreed to help, and a few became consistently involved.
Though she may only be in eighth grade, Maria has been an example of 1 Timothy 4:12 “Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young“. Coaching at RYAA is not about knowing all about the game or the art of coaching; it’s not about your record or experience. It is about taking an interest in a group of kids and creating a fun environment for them to play ball. Thank you for your time and energy, Maria!