Written by: Darren White-Green, 2018-2020 Middle School Partnership Program Coach-Mentor. Coach at Andrew Hamilton Middle School and Rudolph Blankenburg Middle School. This article was written upon the suspension of our Middle School Partnership Program.

On Friday, March 13th, at approximately 2:30 p.m, letters were given to students stating that all District of Philadelphia schools would be closing for two weeks due to the Coronavirus.  As you can imagine, students were ecstatic to receive two weeks off from school in March when there were originally no school days off scheduled. However, as I packed my belongings, I saw a group of about ten students coming towards me yelling,

“Coach! Coach! I know that we don’t have school but what about PYB? How are we going to practice? What about the rest of the season?”

I chuckled and simply replied “listen everything will be fine, the school is just taking a few safety precautions and we will be right back to school, and practicing to win the PYB championship.” Well, as you can see, things were not quite what I predicted.

I instantly thought after the two weeks of no school had passed and we were still on a lockdown this could potentially be a problem, not being connected to our young people physically anymore due to COVID-19.  However, PYB turned this crazy obstacle into a tremendous opportunity by continuing engagement with our MSPP student-athletes through the MSPP Virtual Stay at Home Challenge.  This helped my previous prediction become somewhat true in such a unique way.  My student-athletes still have school, we still practice, and we are still competing for a championship…VIRTUALLY.

  

From the sounds of a ball dribbling against the hardwood and the sound of a swishing net to the sounds of keyboard typing and the mouse being clicked, my student athletes are still engaged and thrilled to participate in the MSPP.  The kids are amused by and enthusiastic about the Tiktok challenges, HomeCourt App, Google Hangouts, and our competitive Zoom Workouts. We also get the chance to review academic modules, have open debates, and write PYB-voice essays to really express themselves. This is significant to me and my philosophy of coaching because I am still able to implement the key components that I think are needed for building a successful team.

Some of those components are: accountability to make sure we are logging on and completing anything that you’ve committed to, daily check-ups on teammates, encouragement through our virtual workouts, perseverance to compete every week to earn points and, of course, enjoying the moment. I know they enjoy teaching me how to humiliate myself with silly TikTok dances, being able to hold a plank position longer than me and embarrassing me by destroying me in video games like Madden and NBA 2K20.

What we once thought was an obstacle has become an opportunity to connect with our young people, not only in a space outside the classroom and off the court, but in our homes because we are truly family! 

I believe in the power of the coach-mentor relationship in a young person’s life and I am forever grateful for my young people. A quote by Robert Schuller that my dad shares with me and I pass along to them is, “Tough times never last, but tough people do.” I continuously let them know that we are a tough team, and no virus will affect the bond we have built.