Coach for College: A Program for College Athletes to Help Provide Youth With Access to Quality Higher Education Through Sports
Coach for College provides a forum for American college student-athletes, who received access to higher education through sports, to in turn use sports to help provide youth in countries abroad with access to higher education. The goal will be to use sports as a bridge for America to connect with other nations and for college student-athletes to enhance the development of life skills and academic success among youth, in the process fostering the development of nations as a whole. The program will operate much like an effective higher education system---proactive efforts to attract promising members of traditionally disadvantaged groups will be combined with well designed, consistently delivered support for them.
General Program Structure
Each summer the program will last for six weeks. The focus will be on fostering a sense of common interests and values with youth in smaller towns and cities or in rural areas that have had little or no contact with Americans and who experience disadvantages that typically exclude them from the higher education system. Where possible, two six week programs will be offered, which will target two different rural communities near a single university partner. However, in the pilot year, only one six week program for youth will be offered. In general, a different group of college athletes will participate in the program every three weeks. Athletes can also stay longer if they desire but it is expected the vast majority will participate for three weeks. College student-athletes will help promote international understanding by using sports to support higher education as a mechanism for upward mobility and by working with American companies, institutions, and foundations to bring the best of American sports programs, education, and facilities to developing countries which lack such infrastructure.
Program Participants: American college athletes, along with bilingual athletes of the same age, sports coaches, university students, and high school students in the host country, will participate in the program. Program participants will be divided into teams, with each team consisting of 10 middle school age youth, 1-2 American student-athletes, 1 Vietnamese college student, 1 Vietnamese high school student, and 1 Vietnamese sports coach or athlete on a local sports team. In the pilot year, representatives from the non profit organization Peacework (www.peacework.org) will assist in administering the program. In future years, former varsity athletes who have just recently graduated from college and who have participated in the program before will assist past Vietnamese participants and “coaches” in organizing the program and expanding the program to other sites.
Student-athletes will use the model of the National Youth Sports Program, sponsored by the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA), and sports specific programs developed by foundations such as the United States Tennis Association and the United States Soccer Foundation to conduct sports clinics for disadvantaged youth of middle school age (10-15), in some cases introducing new sports. The sports clinics will be tailored for each country, depending on which sports are most popular there, and will be led by Vietnamese athletes on local sports teams and student-athletes who participate in those sports at their universities in the United States. Student-athletes who play sports other than those offered in the sports clinics will assist in the above sports clinics and will lead the administration of a fitness program for the youth participants. The fitness program will emphasize drills and exercises that can be done with minimal equipment and will be modeled after the fitness programs in which American student-athletes participate during their seasons as part of their training. During the first three weeks, the sports clinics will be taught at a local sports department near the partner university, and in the second three weeks they will move to the rural village where the facilities are being constructed.
Building or Improving Sports Facilities
Student-athletes will work with companies which build sports facilities in the United States to build sports facilities of similar quality in developing countries. More than simply sites for physical improvement, these sports facilities will be places where members of communities can connect with each other and feel a sense of comfort and friendship. The focus will be on building “all sports court(s)” on the property of junior high schools that are tailored for one sport (such as tennis) but can be adapted for others (basketball, volleyball, badminton). Adjacent to the all-sports court(s) will be bleachers and a shed to house equipment. It is hoped that such facilities will attract youth to schools and provide a space for them to develop skills that will allow them to one day become successful contributors to their nation’s economies. While construction of these facilities may begin before participants arrive, they will be completed during the first three weeks of each program and will serve as the site of the sports clinics in the last three weeks of the program.
Educational Seminars and Workshops
In addition to providing youth and coaches with fitness and sport-specific instruction through these clinics, American student-athletes will work with English speaking Vietnamese high school and college students to teach youth academic subjects and other skills using sports as a theme. The classes will be held on the campus of the partner university. The first three weeks, entitled “Laying the Groundwork for College”, will involve classes about English for sports, health and science related information, and leadership and entrepreneurship. The leadership and entrepreneurship class will in particular help the kids learn about and come to value life lessons and principles that are particularly associated with sport, such as teamwork, accountability, sportsmanship, commitment, integrity, and respect, and which in turn are important for educational success. The second three weeks, entitled “Making College a Reality,” will contain two tracks. For middle school students and younger high school students, American student-athletes and Vietnamese college students will teach weeklong seminars regarding the college application process, what college is like in America and Vietnam, and what college allows one to do in the future. For older high school students, the focus will also be on helping them prepare for university entrance exams, assisting them with particular parts of the application process (e.g. English essay writing), and answering specific questions they may have about college life.