This article was provided by Coaches Network
There are a number of ways that coaches can teach their athletes life lessons and build a team bond, but few have a greater impact than community service. When your players work together to help others, whether in your local community or a village halfway across the world, they often come away with powerful experiences that can last a lifetime. Not only does this service benefit those you are helping, it also strengthens the character of your athletes and brings your team closer together.
Jeff Janssen, founder of the Janssen Sports Leadership Center, has talked to a number of coaches who have gotten their teams involved in various types of community service, from volunteering at local food pantries to supporting children with cancer to building homes in a remote village in Kenya. All of the coaches have seen the tremendous impact that these efforts have had on everyone involved. In an article on ChampionshipCoachesNetwork.com, Janssen outlines six of the countless benefits that community service can have for your team.
1. Builds and Bonds Your Team
Working together for a collective cause, outside of competing in sports, is an effective way to build and bond your team. This provides an opportunity for athletes to better understand their own weaknesses and strengths as the task as a team. Based on their own individual skills, your players can be assigned to roles in order to make a positive impact as a team. The challenges of this type of work and being exposed to the struggles of others are will help your athletes to become more thankful for each other and the privileges that they have.
2. Teaches Athletes Leadership and Life Skills
Taking on a community service project gives your athletes a chance to develop valuable skills that will help them in sports and throughout their lives. It can help to ask your athletes about their career goals or what kind of skills they have in order to assign them to the proper roles. This will help them complete the task more effectively while allowing them to develop those skills even further.
3. Helps Your Team Appreciate Everything They Have
“By helping people who are often less fortunate than themselves, your athletes will better learn to appreciate all they do have in their lives,” Janssen writes.
When you make your athletes help those in need, they will better understand how privileged they are and the ways that they have benefited from these privileges in their own lives. Taking them out of their comfort zone and exposing them to how hard life can be for others is an effective way to give you athletes a new perspective on life. It’s easy to stay in a bubble at your school, but there is a tremendous amount to be gained outside of that bubble.
4. Gives Your Team Something Extra to Honor and Play For
Connecting your team to a cause greater than sports will encourage your athletes to be more humble while also motivating them to work for something beyond themselves. Many athletes are often great at self-motivation, but being involved in community service and other special causes binds the team together for a greater purpose.
“They play not just for themselves but out of respect for those they are serving,” Janssen writes. “They honor them with their intensity, perseverance and passion – and look to dedicate their performances to them.”
5. Connects Your Kids with the Community
One of the most exciting things about getting involved in the community is that it connects your athletes with people they have never considered interacting with. These moments can develop into meaningful relationships that tie your team to the community and the people they serve. By giving to others, they also give back by supporting your team.
6. Provides Them with a Cause Greater Than Themselves
Young people often need to be pushed to become involved in something greater than their own day-to-day worries. As a coach, you have the ability to go beyond teaching a sport by showing your players to the importance of helping others. It may take away time from a practice or two, but that’s a small sacrifice for such a valuable experience.
“By getting your team involved in community service, you provide them with the chance to break out of their self-indulgent, materialistic bubble and become a part of something much bigger than themselves,” Janssen writes. “They quickly learn how true success depends much more on a group effort. They see they are a part of something bigger – and have the privilege and obligation to contribute to it.”