Coaches, Our Unsung Heroes
Coaches, Our Unsung Heroes
By Jim Keck, College Park Athletic Director
Friday, March 13, 2020. That was the day the MDUSD and surrounding districts shut down due to the arrival of COVID-19. For many of our kids, my three sons included, that meant the end of sports seasons that many had worked towards their whole lives. The College Park softball team was undefeated at the time and hoping to make a run at their first NCS title since 2001. We had track and field athletes on pace to set school records. Our boys lacrosse team, with 23 seniors, saw their season come to a screeching halt. My twins and the rest of the College Park senior class of 2020 missed milestone events like Senior Ball and Grad Night. Graduation was a drive-through event in the school parking lot. (Actually, pretty cool.)
High school sports, band, drama, robotics, dance, and art played huge and important roles in these kids’ lives. Now the activities that had helped shape their identities were suddenly gone. Without the ability to gather to play, practice, perform, and compete, our students’ emotional and physical well-being were put into question. We saw tears and began to hear about depression, boredom, missing friends, and lack of motivation.
In June, we were given the greenlight to open summer sports camps for our students and community. Over 40 of our high school coaches immediately stepped up to work with our kids. Since June, we have had over 450 students participate in sports camps at College Park. Our coaches have provided a much needed, safe, and structured outlet for our kids to get out of the house to socialize and exercise. These men and women have offered advice and guidance as our kids deal with the disappearance of so many things they took for granted. Our coaches have given our children hope.
We have followed COVID protocols, including mask wearing, social distancing, small pods, temperature checks, and contact tracing. Our coaches have cleaned equipment and enforced proper hygiene. We temporarily shut down pods when campers, family members, or close contacts tested positive. Coaches created new lesson plans in line with existing COVID guidelines. Due to their diligence and adherence to protocols, we have not had a single case of COVID linked to participation in our camps. The time our coaches spent on the fields, courts, and pitch did not reflect the hours spent planning practices and communicating with our kids and families.
In the summer, we were able to extend a small stipend to our coaches from camp registrations. In many cases, they did not expect compensation. Come fall, with no funding in sight, we still had 40 coaches willing to work with our kids for free. Our College Park Athletic Boosters Club was eventually able to find funds to provide small stipends again. Our football coach travels from Vacaville four days a week. Our cross country coach holds Friday night time trials and sets up runs at local parks on weekends. Our water polo coaches are on deck in the cold and dark. All of our coaches have sacrificed time away from their own families to work with our kids.
When school started and students struggled from home with online classes, they were still able to come on campus for camps. Instead of interacting with a face on a computer screen, our kids were getting real face-time with our coaching staff. While most of the rest of the country held a fall high school sports season (California was one of five states not to do so), our kids were given a start date of December 7 for their sports. With COVID numbers rising higher every day, that start date was moved to January 25.
At our most recent Zoom meeting, our coaches were in unison in their belief that our camps are important. Our kids’ emotional and physical well being is important. Almost all of our programs will continue to hold camps as long as we are allowed under COVID regulations. Our coaches are not doing this for money, ego, praise, or recognition. They are doing this for our kids.
I once asked a mentor of mine why he coached. His response was, “Someone did it for me and it made a difference in my life.” Our current coaching staff here at College Park is no different. They continue to make a difference in our kids’ lives on a daily basis. I’d like to say something they do not hear enough. On behalf of myself and the College Park community, “Thank you.”