One seemingly typical afternoon, Andrew Reardon was walking back to campus from coaching basketball practice at the nearby East End House when it dawned on him, “I can’t leave this kind of work.” He had recently completed an internship with Dell and was considering whether or not to accept a job with the company. Ultimately, he chose not to, and he largely attributes this profound and meaningful shift to his work as a Coaching Corps coach and mentor. Soon, Andrew will be a Master’s candidate at Harvard’s Graduate School of Education. While he has done well in school thus far he feels that, “the most good I’ve really done as an undergraduate has come through my coaching.”
Upon attending Harvard University, Andrew became involved with Coaching Corps right away. As a freshman, he was the only coach volunteering at the Boys and Girls Club in Cambridge. Over the course of that year, Andrew learned not only how to coach youth in underserved communities, but also how to make a meaningful contribution to a young person’s life. The summer between his freshman and sophomore year, Andrew worked with the director of the Cambridge Boys and Girls Club to design a curriculum that complemented the Coaching Corps program. The curriculum included lessons like fractions, taught in the context of free throw percentages, and served to enrich the learning and development experience for the youth served.
As a sophomore, Andrew stepped into a leadership role as a Coaching Corps Team Captain. In addition to leading the work at the Boys and Girls Club in Cambridge (until it, unfortunately, closed its doors), he recruited three new Coaching Corps locations. This was an incredibly valuable contribution as Coaching Corps’ success is built on meaningful collaborations with colleges, universities, and afterschool programs that can support and offer athletic opportunities to young people.
Not only does being a Coaching Corps leader and coach resonate with Andrew personally, he is also deeply committed to the far-reaching, social implications of the work. “It’s [Coaching Corps’ mission] important for social justice and social equality work,” he said. “In Cambridge specifically, it’s very wealthy, but the geographic areas between the two universities are incredibly underserved, which means there are different opportunities and outcomes for a number of kids. It’s a striking juxtaposition.” Andrew sees sports and the work of Coaching Corps as a social justice bridge between those two communities, and others like them.
It has been shown that by being personally supportive and allowing youth to get to know their coaches, a precedent is established. Not only do the kids become more engaged in the Coaching Corps experience, “they see, coach Andy goes to college, coach Andy is pretty cool, I could go to college,” Andrew said. “It’s about developing a rapport that’s practical.” This rapport then quickly leads to conversations like, “what do you want to do for college? Not if. These are the most important conversations I’ve had with the kids,” Andrew stated. Furthermore, “taking student athletes to campuses and showing them that this is attainable, and more than that, we expect this of you,” Andrew said, draws a clear line between their interests and passions, and the importance and possibility of college. “Ultimately what we’re trying to do is show kids the importance of education through sports,” Andrew said; and because of this deliberate, concerted interest in a child’s life, there is a clear ripple effect that occurs.
Since Coaching Corps began its work in Boston in 2013, 214 coaches have been recruited and trained and 2,340 kids participated in afterschool athletic programs with a Coaching Corps coach. And the work is growing. Over the course of the next several years, Coaching Corps plans to substantially expand and develop its programming presence in Boston. The goal is to recruit, train, and place more than 500 coaches so that there will be as many kids in underserved communities participating in afterschool sports as there are in more resourced neighborhoods.
“Generally speaking, it has been a coming of age experience for me,” Andrew said of his time working with Coaching Corps. “Whether it’s coaching or other social justice ventures [and] volunteer experiences, it’s a really important thing to be doing, especially in today’s political climate.” Andrew sees teaching in underserved cities as the next logical step toward using sports as a social justice bridge that is, “all part of a larger movement,” he stated.
This commitment to change on a national scale is what drives the Coaching Corps model, and what resonated with Andrew so deeply from day one. “We’re doing good work for these kids,” he said, “and hopefully, generationally, it’ll start to snowball and we’ll start to solve some big issues.”