It’s 16:15 and students have gathered on the multipurpose court, letting out their energy, working on the drills I’ve organized for them. It may sound like I am a teacher, but in fact I am a 10th grade student.

I’m one of several students who have had the opportunity to be part of a student coaching program, led by Athletics & Activities Coordinator, Alex Sota. And for all of us, the experience has changed our perspectives, and allowed us to better understand the importance of good coaching—which is really about making the experience fun for our athletes.

The Program’s Origin

Sota explains that this program has been in the works for a couple of years, starting in 2017. That summer, 17 high school students were recruited for an AISB camp, dedicated to leadership development. 

The inclusion of student leaders received great feedback from families in the AISB community, and provided momentum for the co-curricular department to make changes.

“Student leadership was one of the main focuses as our main goal was for older students to role model Vampire values and leadership to younger Vampires,” Sota explains.

This ultimately inspired the decision to allow student leaders to become coaches, providing the opportunities to learn from their mistakes, and evolve as human beings.

Student Coach Outlook

4th graders in action as student coaches observe.

I personally coach 4th and 5th grade basketball twice a week, along with a fellow 10th grader, Deniz A.

In 5th grade, Deniz took part in the basketball co-curricular activity as a player; however he was coached by an adult. Knowing what it’s like to take part in basketball training at that age, he wonders how different his experience would be if the student-coaching program had been in place.

“While my 5th grade coach was great, it would have been really cool to have a student athlete as a coach, as I would be able to relate to them more,” says Deniz.

Now in 10th grade, and having had years of experience scoring baskets on the court, Deniz now uses his knowledge to help younger athletes from the sideline. He believes that one of the main advantages of being a student-athlete-coach is “understanding what coaching tactics players might respond well to.”

In order for players to achieve their full potential, Deniz focuses on developing one skill per practice. He explains that, since many players are just starting to learn basketball, it’s important not to overwhelm them and make sure they’re having fun.

Coaches & 5th Graders in team huddle

Another 10th grade coach, Pilar G, (known as “Coach Pilar” by her 4th and 5th grade students) attends each practice working towards her goal to bring joy and chemistry to the team.

“When it comes to goals, I am not concentrated on what the skill level is at the beginning or whether we are the best,” says Pilar. “I truly want to make sure that the after-school basketball practice is, above all, a time where they can have fun and improve.”

As a team, a mix of skill development and chemistry is exactly what every successful sports team possesses, because the focus is aimed at achieving a common goal, rather than personal triumph. 

Potential Rewards for Coaches

5th grade players ready to do jump-ball.

With hard work comes great rewards. After a full year of coaching experience, students will be put to the test and provided with the opportunity to travel as coaches for CEESA.

The motivation behind this decision comes from the belief that “students learn better from other students.” Sota says that, in his experience, kids form bonds more easily with people close in age. And allowing them to develop this relationship on a trip, or while preparing for an important tournament, rewards both parties.

Additionally, Sota hopes that by coaching, students will learn important leadership skills that will aid in different parts of their lives. And he’s confident that these students will aid in cementing the student leadership program internationally.

We hope to display our progress as a team in future games against opposing squads, and look forward to the day when pandemic restrictions are lifted. Sota says that, when this time comes, “student coaches should have their clipboards ready, because it’s game on!”