Coaches nowadays juggle much more than they did even five years ago. Administration structure and changes, caring for their athletes’ mental health and the pressure to win are just a few of the added responsibilities that push up the pressure. To relieve the stress, support is crucial.
When the COVID-19 pandemic forced the adaptation of meeting virtually, FCA Vermont State Director Glenn Olson and Central Vermont Area Director Melissa Crossman of the Vermont FCA seized the opportunity to connect their coaches and offer support in a way they had not thought of before.
Due to its geography and weather patterns that may include snow, ice or fog, Vermonters don't plan out long travel as much at night, making it harder to meet on a regular basis with neighboring coaches.
“It was a real blessing (to meet virtually),” said Olson. “I hadn’t thought of meeting virtually prior to COVID, but when we were forced into that path, it opened a lot of doors that we had not considered previously.”
Since its inception in early 2020, the Huddle has served over 40 coaches and depending upon what sport is in season, has a varied weekly participation of six-to-15 participants from experiential levels ranging from recreational to the collegiate level.
Tom and Laurie Silva of Craftsbury, Vt. have been part of the Vermont Coaches Huddle since its inception. Having been in the business of coaching athletes for 35 years, the two have seen a myriad of scenarios play out amongst their time coaching and instructing ski racing at the youth and collegiate levels. Knowing the importance of support, they were eager to join in the Coaches Huddle for many reasons.
“I think it is important to hear other techniques, philosophies and struggles other coaches are going through,” shared Tom. “It’s nice to see that I’m not alone in my philosophy of thinking how to put Christian values out to the kids.”
Coaching with Christian values is a philosophy Tom began long ago and has proven that when the whole athlete is coached, positive results ensue. It’s this mindset that earned Tom and the University of Vermont three national championship ski titles out of the four years he coached there. While no longer at the university level, this philosophy is what grounds their U12 ski racing team at Mt. Mansfield Ski Club and Winter Academy and his newly developed Craftsbury Academy varsity women’s soccer team.
“We try to teach how to be a team player,” explained the veteran coach. “Whether it’s a team or individual sport, we teach these kids what it’s like to respect each other, work together, be kind and love one another.”
In addition to sharing best practices and affirming strategies during the Huddle, they also dive into Scripture, where they challenge and remind each other how to be Christ-like in their coaching.
For the Silvas, they strive to be the hands and feet of Jesus by establishing and providing high caliber sports programs. In fact, it is this motivation for building strong sport programs that led them to start the girls’ varsity soccer program. Now in its fourth year, the couple delights as they share stories of girls who turned their lives around by playing a new sport and learning what it takes to be an athlete.
“There is nothing more rewarding than to see young girls grow their confidence by challenging themselves,” said Tom. “When there is just even one athlete who turns their life around, whether physically or spiritually, you feel like you’ve done something right in the world.”
In addition to the many benefits offered through playing sports, the Silvas ultimately hope to help their athletes establish an identity in Christ. Coaches in Vermont are eagerly working to increase a student’s exposure to positive coaching role models by supporting one another through their Huddle.
“We all know each other pretty well now and can be so honest when we talk; it’s feels like family even though we have never met in person,” shared the dad of four. “Through this FCA Coaches Huddle, I now have so many other coaches I can turn to for guidance and advice.”
If you would like to support Vermont FCA or participate in any of their student or coaches Huddles, please contact Glenn Olson at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Photos courtesy of Mt. Mansfield Academy and Tom and Laurie Silva