coach across america

Ride This Way: an Up2Us Film

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Greatness often manifests in the face of adversity. Israel Frank, Up2Us Coach Across America (CAA) coach at Brotherhood Crusade Soccer for Success Program, is a true testament to this statement.

Initially, Israel's goals were to obtain his GED, secure employment, and change his life trajectory. With the assistance of his case manager, Israel attended work readiness classes at the YouthSource Center. After demonstrating significant mastery of vocational skills, Israel secured a seasonal job at Vans. Combined with a sincere desire to improve the quality of life for young people, this experience prepared Israel for his CAA appointment.

Check out our video to hear Israel's story and to learn just what makes him Up2Us' Coach Across America Coach of the Year.

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Operation Coach Sponsored By the Miami HEAT

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Up2Us is proud to announce a partnership with the Miami HEAT and the Miami HEAT Charitable Fund to launch Operation Coach, a workforce assistance and coaching initiative for post 9/11 returning military veterans, preparing them for a career in sports and youth development through our Coach Across America program. During half time of Tuesday’s Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Semifinals, the Miami HEAT Charitable Fund presented Up2Us with a $100,000 donation as the result of the team’s annual fundraising efforts.   This contribution will provide veterans with the opportunity to gain employment as coach-mentors and continue to serve as every day heroes to thousands of youth in Miami.

“Veterans often cite ‘physical activity’ and ‘becoming a coach’ as key motivators to their reentry to the workforce,” said Paul Caccamo, founder and president of Up2Us.

The Miami HEAT has a tradition of honoring the brave men and women of the United States Armed Forces and we are extremely excited to continue this partnership.

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Creating Change Through Sports

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On Saturday, September 28th over 150 Coach Across America coaches from Los Angeles and around the country started an intensive four-day training conducted by the Up2Us Center. The National Coach Training Institute focused on applying trauma sensitive coaching and positive youth development techniques through sports to better support at-risk youth.

At the completion of the Coach Training Institute on Tuesday, October 1st, coaches marched to Lafayette Community Center celebrating their send off into communities across the country to use sports to mentor and empower youth. The graduation ceremony, hosted by Up2Us member Heart of Los Angeles (HOLA), included a number of special guests who spoke about the importance of being a coach and mentor to at-risk youth. Speakers included HOLA Executive Director Tony Brown, Up2Us Founder Paul Caccamo, former professional soccer player & Up2Us staff member Angela Hucles, Department of Recreation and Parks East District Supervisor Veronica Rodriguez, former professional volleyball player Gabrielle Reece, and former professional tennis player Pam Shriver.

Following the panel discussion, coaches and special guests participated in a gallery walk to further discuss the knowledge and techniques coaches learned during Up2Us’ Coach Training Institute. A closing circle ended the ceremony with a Coach Across America team building tradition, ‘Ketchy Ketchy’ brought to us by our partners at Edgework Consulting.

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Congratulations to our graduating Coach Across America coaches! Thank you for committing to a year of service coaching and mentoring at-risk youth through sports! A special thank you to all the special guests and attendees who came out to ‘Creating Change Through Sports: Coach Send Off.’ over 150 Coach Across America coaches.

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Voices From The Field

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The most important part of my job is to listen and learn from heroes. All over this country, men and women are sacrificing their time and energy to coach at-risk kids in sports.  These coaches have no money, no equipment, and no uniforms.   But they have a commitment to kids; in many cases, to kids who have been given up on.  Here's a few stories I heard in just the past few weeks:

In Miami, I met a coach who goes into the public schools and asks the principals to give him the most dangerous kids roaming those hallways.  “The kids who have been incarcerated, who everyone has given up on.”  He then plucks those kids out of the school, one by one, and takes them fishing.  That's right, he takes them fishing.   For many of these teenage males, they have never spent any quality time with an older male.  In poorer African-American communities, these kids see gangs and violence as the only way to prove their manhood.  But fishing alongside of an older male who looks just like them but chose a different path in life is all they need to see their lives differently.  "They don't even have to talk to one another," the coach told me.  "Just being in each other's presence is sometimes all it takes."   The coach told me that after a dozen years, he recently received his first donation of tackle boxes.  He's still trying to get enough fishing rods to give one to every child in the program.

In New Orleans, I met a football coach who told me how he spent a year preparing his kids to have the confidence to play in a football tournament.  "They practiced every day," the coach said, "and they committed to staying in school and staying out of trouble."  But when the tournament came, even the coach couldn't change the outcome.   "When the kids got to the field, they were in awe.  The other teams had uniforms and pads.  Our kids only had t-shirts and tennis shoes.  If you could see the defeat on their faces before the game even began. They felt that they just weren’t good enough.  They immediately turned around and got back on the bus.”   The coach is still looking for donations of uniforms.

In New York, I sat with a retired man as we watched a group of boys playing basketball.  All of the boys were from a nearby housing organization where he still sits on the board of directors.  Thanks to Coach Across America, his son was now their basketball coach.    I asked the dad what else these kids needed besides a coach.  "Trophies," he answered, "every one of them.".  He then explained:  "I can point to each of the boys on this court and tell you a story you wouldn’t believe.  Who's in an abusive home, whose brother was just sent to prison, who doesn’t get fed a decent meal, whose parent is an addict, who was sent away to live with an aunt.  Against all these odds, these boys get together every afternoon with my son and instead of joining a gang or doing drugs, they play basketball and commit to their future.  Yet, no one has ever pressed pause and given them a trophy.”  “Why?” I asked.  “Because we don’t have the money to buy them one.”

Volunteer…

Donate uniforms or equipment…

Like many of you, I still have my trophies on the wall from when I was kid.

Paul Caccamo Executive Director

20 Questions. Coach Holly. Title IX.

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Last year, I was at a training where a dozen adults in attendance were each secretly given the name of an accomplished male athlete.   They were then instructed to walk around the room and play 20 Questions with one another and see how many of these athletes they could identify from amongst their peers.  At the end of ten minutes, a tally was taken to see how the group did.  Every secret athlete had been identified multiple times by multiple participants in the room. Next, the same attendants were then asked to repeat the game.  But this time, each participant was secretly given the name of a female athlete.  The female athletes were equally accomplished as the male athletes in terms of Olympic medals or championships won.  The game of 20 Questions ensued.  At the end of 10 minutes, only two of the female athletes were identified by the entire group.

Now, let's hold that thought, as I tell you about Coach Holly.

This past Friday, Coach Holly spoke to a room filled with the employees of Mercedes-Benz USA.  It was all part of a celebration of the commitment of Mercedes-Benz and the Laureus Sport For Good Foundation to support Coach Across America in cities across the nation.  Holly told the employees of how girls at the school where she coaches were being tormented by boys.  They said, "you girls shouldn't play sports.  Don't you know that girls don't make good athletes".  But her girls quickly snapped back: "That's not true.  Look at Coach Holly.  She's a great athlete."

20 Questions.  Coach Holly.   Title IX.  40 Years Later...

In case you don't know, Title IX was the landmark legislation passed 40 years ago this week that was supposed to level the playing field for girls to participate in school sports.   Despite its provisions, this past year was the first year in decades in which the number of girls playing sports has actually decreased, not increased. It's no surprise when you consider how little recognition we give to female athletes and how few schools actually benefit from a Coach Holly.  We still have a long way to go.

In the meantime, one thing we should insist upon for all coaches, male and female, is TRAINING.  That’s right, training on gender in sports.  Girls socialize, learn and acquire confidence in ways that are different than boys.  But with most coaches being male, "STOP TALKING" is often the acceptable M.O. at soccer or basketball practice.  And while that might work to control a rambunctious group of 10 year-old boys, for girls trying a new sport for the first time it might translate as "STOP PLAYING".  At Up2Us, we believe every coach needs to be trained to engage girls in developmentally appropriate manners that respect their different learning styles and increase their passion for sports.  This is not just because every girl should experience the joy of sports, it is because every girl should experience the benefits of sport.  These benefits are self-confidence, leadership skills, discipline, conflict resolution and determination.  Without them, girls may be at a disadvantage not just as athletes but as future businesspersons and world leaders.

The Up2Us Center for Sports-Based Youth Development is developing training to reach thousands of coaches in the next few years.  Our Coach Across America program is hiring and placing hundreds of women as coach-mentors to girls in urban communities.  It's just a few steps we are taking to make a more equal nation, 40 years later.  We believe in a nation in which gender simply doesn't matter on the field, on the court, or in the stadium…and it shouldn't matter the next time you play 20 Questions either.

Paul Caccamo Executive Director

You Asked For Proof

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Many of my meetings with politicians, foundation leaders, corporate donors and other supporters end up with same question:  "how do you know it works?" The "it" is sports-based youth development.  Sports-based youth development (which we call SBYD) is the practice of using sports to engage at-risk youth in life lessons and skills development that help them make better choices for their future.  These choices include staying in school, graduating, living a healthier lifestyle, saying no to gangs, avoiding other risky behaviors and, perhaps, most importantly, believing in your own potential.  Every athlete and former athlete knows that "it" works.   But we, at Up2Us, wanted to prove it.

This week, we released our newest report, "Front Runners: Leaders of the Sports-Based Youth Development Pack".   This report looks at how sports programs that incorporate the important element elements of youth development in their designs are having dramatic impact on health, educational and pro-social outcomes.  All of the programs outlined in the report have undergone outside evaluation to validate their results.

What does this mean for our youth and our nation?

It means that there is a new field out there that may very well be the most effective solution to childhood obesity, high drop-out rates, gangs and teen pregnancy: it's SBYD.  And Up2Us is leading the nation in supporting SBYD organizations in every state so that they can serve more kids, make our communities healthier, and inspire the next generation of Americans with the skills to succeed.

If you played a sport, you get it.

If you didn't play a sport, take a look at this report.   You will get it.

"It" works.

Paul Caccamo Executive Director

For an online copy of the "Front Runners" report, visit the resources page of our website.

"Driving" a Nation To Better Health

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This past week, Mercedes-Benz USA, in partnership with the Laureus Sport for Good Foundation, announced a $1.15 million gift to the Up2Us Coach Across America program. The announcement was made in Chicago with celebrity athletes and Laureus World Sport Academy Members, Edwin Moses and Marcus Allen, in attendance. The funding will sponsor 250 coaches in New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, Miami and New Orleans. There's something very special about this donation: it came from an automobile company. That's right, an automobile company whose business is not obviously tied to fighting childhood obesity or promoting health outcomes. But Mercedes Benz USA demonstrates that maybe it's business is, in fact, tied to the wellbeing of the next generation of Americans. Maybe all our business is tied to this one single outcome.

You don't need an Italian mother like mine to remind you that "if you have your health, you have everything". Yet, we continue to ignore the worsening situation in which an estimated 25 million children will watch their health erode because of poor diets and a lack of opportunities to engage in regular physical activity. Without their health, this generation will face countless other challenges, that include low worker productivity, low quality of life, low civic engagement and even increased depression. Is this really the future of America?

The 250 Coach Across America coaches will be equipped with the tools to use sports to teach nutrition and wellness and to inspire physical activity for more than 40,000 at-risk youth. This is just the start for this program, which challenges every person to use their love of sports to spend a year in service to kids who need them.

If our nation has its health, it has everything.

At a time in which we face numerous challenges, let's keep this in the forefront of our minds.

Paul Caccamo Executive Director

So Can You: Sports As a Solution to Poverty

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The director of an Up2Us program once told me the story of her childhood.  She grew up in a housing project where her mother had her when she was a teenager, and her grandmother had her mother when she was a teenager.  She was told never to expect to leave the housing project or the cycle of poverty that she was born into because it “just didn’t happen.”  But throughout her childhood, she ran track and played sports—and her coach had different dreams for her.  Her coach told her to imagine college, to imagine success, and to imagine a life beyond the projects.  With her coach’s ongoing support, she set goals for herself as an athlete and a student. She used the skills she learned from being part of the team to become successful in college, in her career and in life… Can sports end poverty?  Yes they can.  And I think the model for doing so goes something like this:  we train coaches to inspire young people in areas of extreme urban and rural poverty.  These coaches coach after school, but they also meet with children during the school day to “check in on them” and help them set weekly goals for themselves.  These goals include everything from life skills, educational goals, employment skills, to simply believing in themselves.  The coaches also create expectations for the teams so that the kids can learn from each other on and off the field.  This includes teammates holding each other accountable for being on time, working together, resolving conflict, focusing on common goals, encouraging each other’s success, overcoming failure, and continuously setting higher expectations.  Sounds awfully like employees at Microsoft or Apple.

Through this model, sports can provide children the skills they can use in future careers in businesses, nonprofits and government agencies.  I get to see sports do this everyday.  Not just through the more than 500 Up2Us member organizations that conduct sports-based youth development programming in every state in this country, but through the coaches in the Up2Us Coach Across America program.  Coach Across America is an AmeriCorps program that challenges adults to spend a year in service inspiring low-income youth through sports.  AmeriCorps is a federal program that was started to end poverty in this nation.  Coach Across America is the sports solution that accomplishes this goal.

…and as for that program director who grew up in the housing project: twenty years later, she’s right back where she started from.  But this time she’s not there as a resident but as a coach.  She leaves her day job every afternoon just to be there for her team of girls.  Her message to each of them is a powerful one:

“I did it and so can you.”

Paul Caccamo Executive Director