Unprepared? Never. Coaching for Girls in the Game at Stagg has taught me to always be over prepared. Stagg School of Excellence is a turnaround school located in the heart of Englewood, one of our Tier 1 communities. Unfortunately, many people when they hear “Englewood” think ‘gang violence,’ and ‘failing schools’. But when I hear ‘Englewood,’ I see the smiling faces of the 20 girls I had the pleasure of coaching this past fall.
Everyday brought its own challenges and successes. Having our program in a classroom was not ideal especially considering that sports are a key component of Girls in the Game. And it certainly did not set the girls up for success. I took this challenge in stride as I prepared for each session.
I learned to plan, plan, and keep planning; completely aware that the plan could fall to pieces in a matter of seconds, depending on the particular group of girls: their energy level and emotional state, and any other extraneous factors, like what happened in school that day. There were so many things I couldn’t control. I chose to focus on what I could control: knowing the curriculum backwards and forwards, getting to know each girl on a personal level, and calling her by name.
Learning to go with the flow and respond to the daily needs of the girls not only ensured my success as a coach, but also set the girls up for success. When they had seen a rat in school that day, we took a moment to collectively acknowledge that they had seen a rat, “On the count of three, everyone say, ‘I saw a rat today,’” acknowledging and validating the girls’ unique experiences. When the school had a coat drive and each girl got a brand new winter coat, and we took the time to admire the pinks and purples, the flowers and butterflies on their new jackets.
We wrapped up our season at Stagg with a very successful family night. When asked why they came, one parent explained, “My daughter likes the program and the life skills it teaches her. She like being around other girls learning positive things.” Another parent commented, “I truly do like that Stagg got this program for the kids. Please keep it.” Positive role models, physical activity, and health and leadership activities: it’s the little things that make a big impact. The girls at Stagg now say proudly, “I am a Girl in the Game.”