Coach Wendy is the parent of an eighth grader at John Muir Middle School in South Los Angeles. She is also a Coaching Corps coach and volunteers as the school’s family liaison. Most days, you can find her in the parent center coordinating volunteers in their various activities. But at lunchtime, Coach Wendy is on the blacktop running soccer drills or jump rope sessions with the students.
Growing up, soccer was a huge part of Wendy’s life. “I would finish my homework as fast as I could after school so I could get outside. I just loved being out there and playing sports,” she said.
Wendy has lived in South Los Angeles for over 20 years. Like many urban cities across the country, South LA was hit hard by the crack epidemic in the 1980’s. Once a working class enclave, crack swept through this community; ravaging neighborhoods and decimating families. Homes were foreclosed, emergency rooms overflowed and scores of mothers and fathers went to prison. What crack didn’t destroy, the accompanying gang violence did. Residents like Coach Wendy actively work to rebuild the community they love.
“The community has changed a lot. Before it was really bad,” she says. “It’s calmed down a little, but there are still problems. We have a lot of parks, but most of them aren’t safe for families to play in.”
That’s why she appreciates Coaching Corps. Coaching Corps has trained 25 parents and caregivers (mostly mothers) to coach on the John Muir Campus before, during and after school. They meet as a Wellness Council once a month to plan activities and receive training in coach drills, advocacy, meeting facilitation and recruitment. As a result, an additional 400 young people are playing football, soccer, handball or jump rope at John Muir each week.
“Sports are important for the students,” says Coach Wendy. “They need to burn off their energy. And I already see a difference in class. They are more relaxed and ready to learn.”
Wendy joined Coaching Corps to make a difference in the lives of students at John Muir the way her coaches made a difference for her. She says that since the parents began coaching, there is more unity on the campus, bullying has gone down and the students look forward to the lunchtime activities.
“Coaching Corps has taught me a lot,” she says. “Some students are more difficult to approach than others. I learned how to coach them, teach them how to get along, and play with each other even though they are in different grades.”
There has been a culture shift at John Muir. A healthy one. Students say good morning and welcome the parents when they are on campus. And more often than not, they are waiting for them when lunch starts – ready to play.
“I joined to make a difference, the way my coaches made a difference for me. I want to impact every child that plays sports with me. I want to be there for them. I love coaching.”