Friday, July 13, 2012

Three Cheers for Volunteer Coaches

I surveyed the students in my Living Skills class at Paly this week to help them find their passions by asking them each to answer the writing prompt: "What kind of work would you love to do for one week, without getting paid?" About a third of the class, ten students, all wrote they would love to coach a sport! Did you know this is an area where more volunteers are always needed? Think of every swim team and its operations, a wrestling team, golf team, soccer or baseball club. All need volunteer coaches and helpers. You can follow your passion and make a difference through volunteer coaching in any age group. 

The girls practicing in this photo could have been me, my daughters, or any girl age four to nineteen, from the year 1962 to this summer. Bobby Sox softball leagues have been around for decades. Since we recently moved to a new neighborhood, I'm trying to get my bearings by jogging in the evenings after work. I was recently overcome as I ran past Alta Vista Elementary School, where I attended in sixth grade. That was the year I started school suddenly fatherless. My dad had a horrible crash trying to get up on one ski with his buddies at Shasta. With severely torn ligaments in his leg, blood clots developed and eventually went to his lung. This 6-foot-four, athletic dynamo was admitted to the hospital around Father's Day. A pulmonary embolism took his life just over a month later. 

The man who coached me in my first and only year of Bobby Sox softball might have known about my dad, maybe he saw the word "deceased" on my player application, they way my mom tended explain on any kind of paperwork. I doubt he knew the story of my dad. How he really wanted me to be athletic, but he didn't know where to start. Team sports were highly discouraged for girls in the 1960s. My dad gave me lots of opportunities to ride my bike, and to snow-ski--those were acceptable--but team sports were a place for me and the other "pre-Title Nine" girls  to stay on the sidelines and watch our brothers and their friends.

Thank goodness, another dad from the sixties, Ernest Severtsen, began to recruit his friends as volunteer coaches to give girls a chance at sports with Bobby Sox Softball Leagues. These days, thousands of girls learn the from their volunteer coaches in five Western states. My coach, whose name I have forgotten but I shall call "Roy", gave me countless chances to shed my shell as a depressed and grief-stricken  eleven-year-old girl. He put me on both first base and catcher, positions where I thought I had no business playing. He kept encouraging, and I kept trying to please. I don't remember the score of a single game in my one and only year of Bobby Sox Softball League at Alta Vista Elementary, but I do remember my volunteer coach and his giving me an MVP award who knows why. I wasn't the best on the team, and I was definitely the least experienced. All I had ever done to play a game like that was to watch my brother play t-ball. 

With the assistance of thousands of volunteer coaches, Bobby Sox softball has grown to operate in five western states, inspiring countless young girls to practice the five "ships" taught by Mr. Severtsen: Friendship, Sportsmanship, Citizenship,  Leadership and Scholarship.

"The softball field is a platform upon which children can perform for their parents, relatives and friends in healthy and productive ways."
~ Ernest Severtsen 

L.A. Times article about the beginnings of Bobby Sox