“Coach, I have something for you.”
With a sly smile on his face, he reaches deep into his backpack, rummaging around for a second. As his hand slides out, resting on his tiny palm is a sunflower seed.
Our very own Cara Jones, Director of GR8 Sports Great Kids by day, and volunteer track coach by night for the 2nd-5th grade track team at Mulick Park Elementary School, saw a need and decided to remedy it:
“I love to run. I use running as a form of exercise, stress management and physical wellness,” said Cara. “I wanted to make sure that kids are provided that same opportunity to find their love for running as I did. I think that is an important thing. If the track and field team was cancelled these kids would’ve missed out on a chance to find their love.”
Ever organized, Coach Jones arrived the first day of practice with a coaching plan in place. Almost immediately she threw that plan right out the window. Instead, she joined her team of little athletes as they ran their own creative drills.
“My first day coaching, I went in with a list of games and some drills. But then I realized all they really want to do was run up and roll down a hill! So every practice, you can find us ‘hill training,’ Cara laughs as she describes her practices. “We all run up the hill and roll down together. It makes us itchy, but it’s so much fun! I’ve learned to just go with it. To be a coach, especially for elementary kids, you have to like to have fun!”
The real highlight for coach and kids is track day! Track day brings on a flurry of excitement. Arriving by bus to the historic Houseman Field and donning their individual schools’ brightly colored t-shirts, the athletes surge onto the field. In the bleachers, parents, friends, neighbors, aunts, uncles and grandparents cheer their arrival.
Although some of these young athletes look forward to their events, others are anxious about the new experience and voice their reluctance to participate.
“When the kids get behind the starting line, they often say they don’t want to run,” says Cara. “But then they cross over that finish line, and a huge smile erupts across their face. They realize what they just accomplished and they are so proud of themselves! Regardless of whether they come in first or last, they did it!”
Volunteer coaches are needed all the time for a variety of sports. Being an elementary track coach, requires you to devote at least two evenings a week, for at least five weeks to practice and meets, and a willingness to run in the rain. Simply put, GRPS needs volunteers who want to make a difference!
For Cara, it became something so much more than she imagined. “It might be cliché, but you get more out of it than the kids will. You know what that sunflower seed in his little hand meant to me? It meant that sometime during his day, he thought of me. I made enough of an impact on him that he thought of me.”
About GR8 Sports, Great Kids: GR8 Sports, Great Kids, a program of GRPS and the Student Advancement Foundation, ensures that all K-8 students have opportunities to participate in sports. Currently, this youth sports program seeks volunteers to serve as coaches, game help and other support for the combined 18 different sports offered for K-8 students. Interested in volunteering? Please call Cara Jones at 616-988-5430 ext. 4 or by email, Cara@grsaf.org.
Want to help make sure sports are available to all K-8 students at GRPS, CLICK HERE to make your tax deductible gift.