My name is Lauren Mertz and I am lucky enough to be in the third class of Snyder Leadership Legacy Fellows. I wanted to write about my experience coaching youth soccer in the Manhattan community last fall, as this was one of my most favorite memories during my senior year. Along with three other wonderful fellows, I had the chance to coach the most rambunctious, fun-filled and energetic group of fourth graders around. There were three main lessons I took away from this experience – consistency is key, improvement happens in the little moments, and laugh more.
Repetition is the greatest teacher, and this was true for our team throughout the whole season; this also happens to be Coach Snyder’s Goal #14: Consistency. With busy fall semesters, applying for big kid jobs, and attempting to maintain friendships, I sometimes caught myself forgetting the small things. I had no idea how much value these little things had for this group of kids. I will never forget when I wasn’t able to make it to a practice, and wasn’t able to chat with them about what they had learned in school that day, and the following week they made sure to subtly remind me. It’s these little conversations and moments that add up during the course of the semester and it’s about so much more than sports, at that point.
Understanding that teams will not change and improve overnight was such a big lesson for me. I am a highly competitive person, and coaching fourth graders is sometimes the equivalent of herding cats. I learned how to spot out little bits of improvement and growth in each player, and then to celebrate these as big wins. I think this will be exponentially helpful in my future career, as I will be managing a team of people. Having the ability to spot these little inches forward and celebrate accordingly boosted team morale and confidence. Seeing those kids realize they were being recognized for their hard work was one the most rewarding parts of this experience.
Lastly, I learned to laugh more from this group of kids. It’s so easy to get caught up in the stresses of each day, but seeing those kids twice a week made me feel alive and brought so much joy to my days. They made me laugh with their puns, dance moves, and all around demeanor. I already miss their inexplicably goofy questions about my day, or if I was a grown up (far from it), or what I had for lunch. These kids naturally, and without effort, sought out the joy in this world. I have worked to capture that joy and take it with me each day so I can hopefully share it in a way that those kids would appreciate.
These are just a few of the lessons I learned from our team. They were an absolute gift to my life and I miss them already. I could not be more grateful for the experience of hanging out with fourth graders each week, and by the end of the season, I had learned more from them about life than any amount of knowledge we could have given them about soccer.
If you are interested in the 2018-2019 Snyder Leadership Legacy Fellows Program, you can find the application here.
Applications close on Friday, February 23.