Before we know it, the bane of every college kid’s existence will be upon us…that’s right: back-to-school. For me, it’s not the upcoming semester that’s bringing me down, rather it’s my time with Boys & Girls Clubs of Central Iowa (BGCCI) coming to a close. If you read my previous blog, you will nostalgically remember stories of not only my gangly and petite figure utterly failing at all sports I’ve tried, but also of the important lessons athletics can offer to youth. From this, I set a goal to help BGCCI youth in their development by presenting them with opportunities to participate in athletics with guidance from collegiate student-athletes. You may be wondering, "What has Josh done to achieve this goal?" Or maybe not…but regardless, I’m going to tell you about a summer filled to the brim with failure and success.
Similar to athletic endeavors in my youth, my tasks for this summer started out collapsing miserably in front of me. My first project involved reaching out to a post-secondary institution’s athletic department to create a partnership and student-athlete mentorship program with BGCCI. Unfortunately, following two weeks of research, program creation, and proposal construction ended in a stern rejection. When failure happens, we tend to second guess our ability and are lost for where to go next. However, when things don’t go to plan…that’s when you adapt.
Learning from my persistence in athletics, I found other outlets and opportunities to help youth at BGCCI. This includes planning and conducting a sports clinic at Drake’s Helmick Commons let by student-athlete volunteers. I planned the event, recruited volunteers, designed t-shirts, water bottles, and bags as well as provided snacks to the youth upon conclusion of the event. Because, as everyone knows, free stuff makes everything better. I also never gave up on recruiting student-athlete leaders to guide and mentor youth. I’m still in the works of small-scale projects that have potential to expand into my position’s “big” vision in the coming years. I also focused my efforts into creating a survey assessment to rank and quantify qualitative observations in Club sports programs. This provides BGCCI a valuable tool to utilize in measuring Club improvement over time. While I failed to achieve my positions initial goals due to unforeseen circumstances, I still made a positive impact in the lives of Des Moines youth…and learned the importance of contingency plans.
Sure, I did a few things this summer, but it means nothing if the programs don’t benefit the kids. As you can see from the photos on this blog, the sports clinic was a blast for everyone involved. The student-athlete volunteers recruited helped expose Des Moines youth to great futures and new possibilities they never imagined. Countless youth mentioned the desire to pursue college, along with sports, at the clinic. My work extends beyond sports as the assessment tool I created will allow a more effective curriculum for enabling youth to make healthy choices in regards to nutrition, exercise, and exposure to positive mental health. Through these initiatives, their lives have potential for enhancement as they learn and grow in a healthier environment.
To wrap this up in a sentimental and inspirational way, I’ve learned that experiences come full circle. I’m unsure if I would’ve rebounded and made the best of my situation had I not learned perseverance, positivity, and hard work from athletics in the past. What you learn from sports reflects into other areas of life whether it be work, relationships, or hobbies. I can only hope to provide this train of thought and perseverance to the youth I’m helping. To the reader, thank you for following my journey through these two short posts throughout the summer. I’ve learned a lot and hopefully created meaningful social change in Des Moines. I hope you are all able to do the same.