Written by: Myaira Arnold, TGP Community Intern
Interviews by: Myaira Arnold & Nea’la Prue, TPG Community Interns
Athlete2Coach (A2C) trainings are a practice that all student-athletes volunteering with The Grassroot Project (TGP) must go through before being facilitating in school programs. The Grassroot Project trains student-athletes to facilitate discussions around Sexual Health, Nutrition & Physical Health, and soon Mental Health in DC middle schools.
According to Dylan, it is important to have A2C trainings because they ensure that “student-athletes are prepared when they go into classrooms.” Being an experienced trainer, she advises that, “when you’re not [prepared], nothing is going to be valuable to the student…in order to be taken seriously you have to know what you are talking about because if you don’t, they won’t take you seriously”. Not only are A2C trainings important for learning curriculum, but they build a community for the athletes as well. It would be hard for athletes to go through an 8-week program with other athletes that they see every other week but don’t know. A way to make the athletes more comfortable is letting them come up with nicknames that they will use throughout the program. These nicknames are what they will be called by staff, students, and other athletes. Along with the comfortability, “Having nicknames,” Dylan says, “encourages people to participate […] outside [of grassroots] I call them by their grassroots nickname- this brings everybody together as a community.”
Starting in the summer of 2018, athletes are now trained by “Master Trainers” (student-athletes who have gone through an 8-week, extensive training-of-trainers summer internship experience). Through this 8-week internship, Master Trainers better their facilitation skills, increase their knowledge surrounding the health topics in the TGP curricula and plan future trainings for newly recruited student-athletes. At A2C trainings, Master Trainers teach the new student-athletes TGP’s curriculum, lead games for them to participate in, and provide chances for them to do teachbacks and enhance their own facilitation skills.
During Dylan’s first training back in January of 2018, before Master Trainers were a part of TGP, she “didn’t know any differently because it was just staff, Tyler and Jane, working at the trainings” says Dylan. While she had a hard time adjusting, she also says, “while having fun, I also took it very seriously because I knew it was a really big commitment.” When making the change from being trained to doing the training, Dylan saw the effect that Master Trainer’s had on the athletes that were being trained. She says that trainings “start with us [Master Trainers]” and just by being “bought in” it causes new athletes to be “really passionate about” TGP’s mission which is something that they couldn’t get from the staff.
Since getting trained in January of 2018, Dylan has played many roles in TGP over the course of the year. Currently, she is the Head Coach of a Sexual Health program at both Perry Street Preparatory School and Center City Public Charter School – Trinidad Campus. We also spoke with two brand-new coaches that were recently trained by Dylan in January 2019’s Athlete2Coach training, and are now coaches in her school programs: DaShawn Simon and Tyree Leonard, who are teammates on the Howard University football team and had similar experiences in training.
Tyree says “I was nervous because I didn’t know anyone” and DaShawn agrees “it was weird and I [he] was nervous.” The first day of A2C
During the training process, athletes thoroughly learned the curriculum that they will later teach to students in middle school. But A2C trainings are not like your average day at school – besides studying the curriculum out of a book, coaches are thrown into games and activities from day one. They are expected to practice every aspect of the curriculum hands-on as if they were the middle school students themselves.
Becoming a Master Trainer is also something that new coaches can apply for. Tyree believes that having Master Trainers train the athletes at A2C trainings is “definitely more effective for the athletes” because it is “a visual that all the athletes have gone through.” When DaShawn and Tyree were asked if they would consider becoming Master Trainers, both seemed interested.
DaShawn applied and was recently accepted – he will enter the Master Trainer program in the summer of 2019 to help Dylan and the other Master Trainers recruit more athletes and run A2C trainings for the 2019-2020 academic year. “It is good to train around college students because we were able to ask more conceptual questions, on a deeper level,” which was a key point to DaShawn’s experience during training, “ It was good to learn with people that are on our level […] so we could regurgitate all the information together,” he says and now he will be able to “bestow your [his] knowledge on someone else and help them grow.”
In the end, it is important that every athlete takes something from these trainings whether it be a new skill or an improvement on a skill they already had. DaShawn learned about a medication that people at risk can take to prevent the contraction of HIV, PREP, which he “didn’t even know existed” and he’s happy for learning all the things he did learn because they are “important to my [his] life”. Tyree was able to learn not to “be afraid to meet new people […and] come out of my shell and stop being shy.” Finally, Dylan was able to learn “the aspect of teamwork” which, she says, “has transferred to more of a real-world situation […] it’s not just about how well I can speak, but how I get everyone involved.”