What Makes a Good Coach?

A couple weeks ago, I was at my little 7th grade brother’s AAU basketball tournament. He plays for one of  the top teams in New England, so I was very excited to finally see his team play.

They dominated. My little brother’s team absolutely creamed the competition, winning each game by at least 20 points. Everybody in the stands was in absolute awe at how great they were playing, but I was a little disappointed at some of what I saw.

Sure, the team played fantastically. There wasn’t much I could critique about them from a basketball standpoint. But, not one of the kids was smiling. When one of them hit a good shot or made a nice play on defense, no one would smile. When they ultimately won the tournament, and they posed for pictures with the trophy, no one was smiling. How could this be?

I found out, through talking to parents of the players, that the coach is extremely hard on the kids in practice and in games. Because he is so hard on the kids, the kids are afraid of him. The kids are even afraid to smile because they think they will get yelled at for doing so. This whole experience of watching my brother’s team and talking to the parents has caused me to do a lot of thinking about what makes a good coach. Furthermore, I have come up with four characteristics that make a good coach. I will call them the Four P’s:

  1. Passionate: A good coach is happy to be coaching. A good coach has a ton of passion for the sport he or she coaches, and he or she instills this passion in the players.

  2. Patient: A good coach is patient with his or her players. If someone doesn’t do something correctly, then they should be dealt with patiently. A good coach doesn’t just yell at the players when they do something wrong because most players won’t respond well to that.

  3. Prepared: A good coach is prepared for anything that could happen. A good coach expects the unexpected. The best player could get injured at any point in time, and it is up to the coach to keep everyone focused and believing that they can still win.

  4. Productive: A good coach keeps the players on task and focused on the goal. A good coach makes sure that what is done in practice is going to help the team in the games.


Boston You’re My Home

Rivalries forgotten, camaraderie heightened…

Never would I imagine hearing that Yankee Stadium would be playing Sweet Caroline in the middle of the eighth inning nor that the Montreal Canadiens would take a moment to honor Boston before a game. If someone asked me to sum up Boston in one short phrase, I would say it’s a sports town. Whether you’re a diehard fan or not, most would agree that this was unexpected, completely out of left field.

Monday April 15th was a day I had been looking forward to for weeks. Patriots Day- a day I look forward to every year, and a day that I have loved for as long as I can remember. Between the reenactments of Paul Revere’s famous ride, the Boston Marathon, the annual Red Sox early morning game, and a Monday off from school, while the rest of the country starts their week as usual, this is a very special day for the city of Boston and the state of Massachusetts. Having been born and raised in Massachusetts, for me it’s a day full of bragging rights, and I take full advantage of this. My freshmen year of college, I remember all the surprised and confused faces of my friends from other states, wondering what Patriots Day was. I remember my Massachusetts pride coming out in full force, slightly angered that they didn’t know.

On Monday April 15th, I got ready to cheer on friends running in the marathon, as well as strangers traveling from all over the world to take part in this special day. I put on my favorite Red Sox cap, got my Dunkin Donuts iced coffee, and headed to Copley with my friends. The weather was perfect, we found a great viewing spot, and we made our friend a poster as we tracked his progress. I remember being frustrated with tourists who were unable to maneuver the crowds as skillfully as I have come to learn.

It had been a great day but in a matter of minutes everything changed. Happiness turned into sadness, smiles into frowns and tears, excitement into panic. Less than 20 minutes after celebrating a friend’s amazing accomplishment, our worlds had been turned upside down. You never expect something like Monday’s tragic events to happen, especially not in your hometown.

In the moments after the explosions it did not matter if you had traveled 5 miles or 5000 to watch the marathon. Strangers came together to help one another. For some Boston has become a second home, whether it’s because of the sports team they play for, the school they go to… even if it’s just home for a week long vacation. For others Boston will always be home but they have also moved away for work or school. They too feel the heartache of Monday’s tragedy. Then there are those who have been here their entire lives, all too close to the tragedy. And then there are those who have never been to Boston, but have an overwhelming sense of compassion, yearning to show their support for this shaken city.

In the days that have followed Monday April 15, 2013 rivalries have been put on pause, and the Yankees, Canadiens, Dodgers, and Sabres among countless others sports teams and cities worldwide have taken the time to show their support for Boston. The Red Sox have come out in full force and have won every game since Monday, taking a “Boston Strong” jersey on the road with them. The Boston Celtics cancelled a game – making it the first time in NBA history all teams will not have played the same number of games. The Boston Bruins held a powerful pregame tribute and moment of silence prior to their game on Wednesday. At the conclusion of the game both the Bruins and the visiting Buffalo Sabres saluted the crowd. Participants in the upcoming London Marathon will wear black ribbons to honor the victims of Monday’s tragedies. These are only a few of the efforts made to help the city of Boston heal. Will Middlebrooks of the Boston Red Sox asked what he could do to help and fans encouraged him to keep doing what they’ve been doing – to play a good game and to make their city proud and so far the Red Sox have done nothing but win for their city, at a time where it is needed the most.

Today if you asked me to describe Boston in one short phrase, I would say surreal. The city is filled with mixed emotion – heartache and sadness but also hope and unity. As President Barack Obama and many others have said, Boston is resilient and we will get through this. We are strong. We may have been shaken but we cannot be broken. As Mayor Menino said no thing can defeat the heart of this city. Nothing. Nothing will take us down because we take care of one another. We will rebuild. And we will run again.

As we headed down to Copley a friend of mine asked me what the unicorn on the marathon jackets symbolized. At the time I did not know but later learned that it symbolizes the strive for excellence, even if it can never be reached.

The city of Boston will come back from this week’s tragic events. Boston is a city that will never give up on its people, and its people will never give up on their beloved city. This has been shown now more than ever. Moments after the explosion, strangers risked their lives to help others, rerouted marathoners continued their journeys to hospitals, lining up to donate blood. Kind words of encouragement flooded social media sites. Community members opened up their homes to others in need of a friend or a place to stay. Law enforcement and medical personnel have worked tirelessly to protect others.

This week I have felt sad, afraid, and angry. But I have also felt proud of my city and thankful for all the amazing efforts of the community. I have come to realize that it will take time for things to feel normal again, but I know that sooner than later the good uplifting emotions will outweigh the bad.

Boston is and will always be my home and Patriot’s Day will always be close to my heart. Boston will run again. Boston will have a 118th Marathon. And I am confident that next year the runners, the supporters, and the entire city of Boston, MA will be one step closer to reaching excellence.


From Weightlifting to Date Shifting: Addressing the Issues of Gang Violence and Dating Violence…in 24 hours.

By Safaa Usmani

It has been an active past couple of weeks at, or should I say out of, the office. This is actually my first blog since I have been an intern here at Sport in Society, but I will spare you a detailed account of the last seven months, since the last two weeks represent quite well the work we do here.

I will start with my trip down to the InnerCity Weightlifting gym on Tuesday evening. This trip has been a long time in the making, since I first saw Jon Feinman, Director and Founder of ICW, give a talk at Northeastern University on ‘Crime and Punishment: Safe Streets, Imprisonment and Gun Policy’, back in November. Making the streets of the inner-city safer, and simultaneously reducing the number of youth winding up in prison, has always been a primary concern of mine. Growing up in Hackney, an inner-city borough of London with the city’s fourth highest crime rate, I have experienced my fair share of unsafe streets and, unfortunately, I can think of at least three of my high-school classmates who have served time in prison since, or even before, graduating. What can we do to better this situation? It appears InnerCity Weightlifting is part of the answer. ICW works with young people at the highest risk of violence, getting them off the streets and into the gym where they are “empowered with the confidence and support needed to say ‘no’ to violence and ‘yes’ to opportunity”. My visit to the ICW gym showed me a group of young men and women working as a team in providing an encouraging and positive environment where people can learn to lift weights or simply tone up – I had the impression anyone and everyone was welcome. It reinforced my belief that sport, throimage for blogugh its simple values such as teamwork and dedication, can help provide direction and opportunity to the lives of youth, whose lives could otherwise be dictated by gang-violence or prison life. I am now inspired to see something similar available back home in Hackney, where I feel the need is just as great. Wouldn’t it be nice if the Conservative government shared my views and, rather than pocketing public money, spent it on the ICWs of the world? I guess that will also be a long time in the making…

Discussing leadership in a fight against dating violence.
Discussing leadership in a fight against dating violence.

On a precious five hours sleep after my ICW trip, I woke up at 5am on Wednesday morning and set off on a road-trip with Ricardhy, Suzanne and Jarrod to Worcester, MA, to facilitate a Mentors for Violence Prevention (MVP) training at a National Honor Society conference. It was great to work with high school students from across the state on the issue of dating violence – the students were really receptive and full of great contributions to the discussion, in the form of personal stories, advice and opinions on how our society can be improved and made safer for both women and men. I always welcome an opportunity to practice my facilitating skills that I earnt at the MVP institute I attended way back in October – and although I may be delivering the same curriculum, no two trainings are ever the same. With memories of ICW fresh in my mind from the evening before, it was so inspiring seeing young people speaking about reshaping ‘manhood’ so that boys and men don’t feel like they have to fit in the box of ‘violent’ – which I hope will lead them to make intelligent decisions in the course of their lives to reduce, or better still eliminate, violence from women’s and their own lives.

Back in the office, I have had time to reflect on how the work we do at Sport in Society and the other great organizations we support really can make a difference in our society. I may complain about the hours I spend in front of the computer, but it is weeks like these where I can see what all of our hard work equates to that make this internship so worthwhile. Here’s to the next five months – you may even get another blog out of me 🙂