Athenian philosopher Plato is credited for saying “The beginning is the most important part of the work.”
Former Roanoke College basketball coach and athletic director Ed Green is bringing that message full-force to aspiring young athletes and their parents in a different approach to youth sports, appropriately named “Great Beginnings”.
Inspired by memories of playing catch with his father at a young age, Green started the program 10 years ago as a way to introduce his own grandchildren to the fundamentals of playing a sport, technique and sportsmanship.
Geared up for boys and girls ages 3-7, the program is unique in that parents and guardians are required to be just as big a part of the the learning experience as the kids themselves. Each child along with his or her parents or guardian work together to learn the basic motor skills needed to successfully move on to more organized sports in years to come. As the program progresses and children show improvement, the skill stations are altered so that each child remains challenged. The program teaches and develops motor skills, cognitive abilities and social interaction, with an emphasis on fun for all that attend.
“I teach parents first, and then the parents can teach their kids,” Green points out. “This may be the first experience a child has with another person or coach barking out skills. It’s important that parents model the proper skills for the child.”
The program is all-on-board and hands-on for everyone. It’s not a venue where the kids are dropped off at the door. Green ends every session with a talk about ethical and moral values.
“You learn two ways; by the books you read and the people you meet,” Green notes. “If you get on a bicycle and just sit there, you fall off. You have to have coordination. That requires being able to go down the sidewalk in a balanced manner. In the same way, you have to have a balanced life, and that includes the parents, too. Socially…nutritionally…Be yourself and believe in yourself, and be ready to go somewhere.”
On a recent Sunday afternoon, Green was conducting the fourth of the 5-week program focused on tee-ball and softball on the athletic fields off Red Lane in Salem. Assisting was former Roanoke College basketball standout Gerald Holmes, a player during Green’s coaching tenure with the Maroons. Coordinated with Salem Parks and Recreation Department’s Community Activities Division, Green has clinics in the spring for tee-ball/softball and soccer, in the fall for football and soccer, with basketball clinics taking place in the winter when colder weather brings the groups indoors.
The boys and girls interact with their parents and guardians; batting, pitching, playing catch and running the bases under the watchful eye of Green. The goal of the program is to help prepare young children for the challenges of organized sports in a non-threatening atmosphere without the worry of competition. The program helps kids avoid frustration, embarrassment and fear, that studies have shown leads to over 70% to drop out of organized sports altogether by age 13.
Green, who has over 40 years combined experience as a coach at the college and high school level, focuses on the benefits of building confidence and self-esteem in children, having fun with an early experience in sports, preparing both kids and parents for future sports participation, having quality time together for parents, guardians and child, plus helping the adults in how to positively support and teach their child.
“We’ve learned a lot,” Lauren Schantz said after working with her son, Everett Chen, age 5. “He’s having fun and keeps getting better.”
Israel Rosado echoed the program’s influence after working with his daughter, Amelie, age 7, who attends Cave Spring Elementary School.
“The program looks awesome. We moved here from Puerto Rico and picked up the flyer at school. It’s a lot of fun to be out here.”
Amelie agreed with a big smile after working on her skills during the hour-long session.
Sports broadcaster Dave Ross, who has been involved with youth sports for decades, was on hand with his grandson, William, and William’s dad, Billy Boswell.
“This is a very good program and a very thorough program,” Ross said emphatically. “You know everything is going to be first-class when you have Ed Green and Gerald Holmes involved. William has also done the soccer clinic and he’ll be doing basketball this winter. He’s always excited to be here.”
Green hopes that the social, athletic and moral balance he prescribes will affect the participants in a positive way for years to come.
“I hope what I’m talking about at the end of each session is going to multiply, and the families will be able to teach their children,” Green says proudly. “The success will come from families enjoying one another in a positive recreational atmosphere long after the Great Beginnings program is over. That’s my goal.”
For more information on “Great Beginnings”and its next clinic, contact Ed Green at 540-387-9516.