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Students gain experience mentoring middle school athletes

The Terman volleyball team poses with its coaches, sophomores Ritu Advani and Nikeilie Yang. Courtesy of Ritu Advani

Written by Tim Sun

After their playing careers end, many people bring their passion for sports to the sidelines to mentor younger athletes. This year, some students have taken the opportunity to coach at Terman Middle School, and these student-coaches lead teams in various sports such as football, volleyball and basketball.

Many of the students were inspired to pursue coaching by role models who have also gone from playing to coaching. Senior Andre Augustin led a seventh grade flag football team at Terman this fall, and he points to his father as his inspiration for entering coaching. “When he was coaching, I would come to his practices and I would see how the kids looked up to him, and I just realized that I wanted to do that,” Augustin said. “I wanted to be a coach like him, because it’s every son’s dream to be like their dad.”

Although the prospect of coaching a team might seem daunting, the coaches were all up for the challenge. Junior Christian Cruz recently began coaching basketball and acknowledges that though the transition from player to coach required an adjustment in mentality, it was not hard to find his coaching identity. “As a player you focus on yourself but when you’re a coach you have to focus on the team as a whole,” Cruz said. “[But] it wasn’t difficult because I knew what kind of coach I wanted to be.”

During practice, the coaches keep the game simple and fun for the players. Augustin started off with basic exercises and then ran drills to develop the players’ football skills. “We have them warm up with dynamic stretches, have them do one lap around the Terman field and then teach them the fundamentals of football,” he said. Augustin recalls an occasion that reflects the light-hearted nature of his team. “I remember one time I came to practice late because I had a doctor’s appointment and then my assistant coach said, ‘Go tackle Andre,’” Augustin said. “Then the kids came and chased me and they tackled me, which was pretty cool.”

An important aspect of coaching is relating with the players, and the students all worked to develop positive relationships with their teams. This fall, sophomore Ritu Advani coached a sixth grade girls’ volleyball team and tried to create an open environment for her players. “For five to 10 minutes at the end of every practice, we’d sit down as a team and do compliments, talk about something on their mind, or what they wanted to improve on,” Advani said.

Cruz uses a more hands-on approach to connect with his seventh grade boys’ basketball team. “I do the drills with them sometimes,” he said. “I think that’s a really good part of coaching, where you can actually get into playing with the players.”

All the students stressed the importance of patience in working with younger kids. Only a few weeks into his coaching career, Cruz has already learned the magnitude of persistence and flexibility in working with a diverse group of players. “You really have to be patient when you’re coaching these kids because they have different personalities,” Cruz said. “Each player is different in his own way and it’s hard to cater to the whole team.”

All of the students had positive coaching experiences, and they communally cited relationships with players as their favorite aspect of coaching. Advani enjoyed connecting with her team and seeing each individual progress during the season. “Honestly, [my favorite part was] just talking to the girls, getting to know their personalities and watching them grow as players and become better every single day,” she said. Advani currently leads a seventh grade boys’ basketball team and keeps coaching because she enjoys having a positive impact on the lives of youth. “I continue coaching because I enjoy meeting new people and influencing their lives for the better,” Advani said. “It’s amazing knowing the ways I can contribute to our community.”

Augustin feels that the experience was extremely influential and greatly impacted the development of his own character. “It just made me more responsible and it made me into a man,” Augustin said. “It’s a life-changer, honestly.”

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