#49. Find a sports league for younger children in your community and offer to help officiate or coach

IDEA #49. Find a sports league for younger children in your community and offer to help officiate or coach.

If a child has any interest in sports or athletics, one way of “giving back” to a community is through participation in youth sport programs–not as an athlete but as an official or coach. Little League baseball and town soccer in many places could scarcely exist but for the participation of teenage umpires and referees, and the experience of applying rules and making those difficult judgment calls can help prepare the young official for more difficult challenges in other fields.

Officiating presupposes a solid knowledge of both the sport and its rules, and moreover most programs that use non-adult officials offer some form of training; this no doubt includes advice on how to handle the occasional obstreperous player or parent. Even so, these young officials are usually dealt with quite decently by players and onlookers, as after all their presence makes play possible. Well-run leagues will continue to provide guidance for their younger officials throughout the season.

While adult coaching is the norm in most youth sport programs, a younger and skilled “assistant coach” can be a valuable asset to a team’s training regime, running drills or working one-on-one with players on particular skills. While the student-coach does not have to be a nonpareil athlete in the sport, a good skill base and, most importantly, an understanding of how skills can be broken down for teaching are essential.

The young official or coach gains unparalleled experience in exercising judgment and leadership; the fourteen-year-old who can manage a field full of scrumming eight-year-old soccer players is probably ready for most anything. And if that fourteen-year-old can confidently call balls, strikes, and outs, he or she may be set to take on the world.

#48. Imagine something that you would like to be different at your school and write a thoughtful, respectful letter to the superintendent, principal, or head explaining your idea and why you think that it should be considered.

IDEA #48. Imagine something that you would like to be different at your school and write a thoughtful, respectful letter to the superintendent, principal, or head explaining your idea and why you think that it should be considered. Pat yourself on the back if you receive an answer, and be ready to follow up on your suggestion if your are invited to discuss it in person.

How appropriate to consider using the First Amendment right to “petition for redress of grievances” on the public official closest to the student: a school administrator. If the school is private, the right should be considered the same.

Students always have ideas about how schools should be run and how their programs should be organized, and here is a respectful, even formal, way to carry a suggestion forward from the conversational stage to the serious one. The first order of business is to come up with a positive suggestion that would make a difference in the quality of school life and that could also be accomplished without some sort of miracle occurring—a doubling of the budget, for example, or the abduction of an unpopular teacher by aliens.

Once an idea has been decided on and at least a suggested plan of action put together, the idea should be put into the form of a formal business letter presenting the proposal and some of the arguments in its favor. Organization should follow the form of a letter to an editor or public official: main point, supporting evidence, likely benefits, and respectful conclusion. This letter should above all things be carefully edited and proofread; it is, after all, about school.

If the idea is seen as sound by the recipients, there may be opportunities to further advance the argument and perhaps even to become involved in some sort of implementation process. A little-considered aspect of being a suggestion-maker is that the role often entails becoming a leader as well. The ability to enlist others in one’s own ideas is a practical skill that underlies many versions of active leadership, and of course there are rewards of accomplishment and pride for a successful endeavor.

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