Our coaches work with over 4,500 children each week nationwide, but they do a lot more than just coach! They build vital connections with each participant to amplify program outcomes and improve each child’s experience. They’re at the heart of our program so we re-imagined them not as coaches but as Youth Development Mentors (YDMs) helping students develop positive character traits and life long skills.

All of our YDMs have amazing stories to tell – and we want to share them!

  •  I sometimes leave a session thinking I just learned more from the kids than they did from me today.

  • For this month’s YDM Spotlight we caught up with Kyla!


    Kyla (center) joined us this spring!

Kyla Maxwell

Monroe Academy for Visual Arts & Design & Manhattan RFC

How did you get involved with Play Rugby USA?
A family friend that knew I coached rugby and soccer at home told me about PlayRugby and said I’d like the work they do. I worked with children and teenagers in Ireland for the last few years through coaching and my previous job and I’ve always enjoyed it. Rugby is one of the very few sports that you’re taught to be respectful to not only your teammates but to the opposition too and there’s a place for every type of person on a team.


What is it like to be a Youth Development Mentor?
I find being a YDM sometimes challenging but also a lot of fun. At times working with kids can test your patience but the biggest thing for me is I find it refreshing! It really breaks up my work week and I look forward to my sessions with the kids. It also opens my eyes to different cultures and backgrounds that are so different to mine. I sometimes leave a session thinking I just learned more from the kids than they did from me today.


Kyla sends one off through the uprights!

What’s your favorite experience as a coach?

One of my favorite things I love to see when I’m coaching is seeing the kid that is very quiet and shy in the first session come out of their shell, laughing and joking with the other kids as the session or weeks progress. Its also great when the kids are excited to see you’re back, and they light up and smile. Kids are so honest and upfront that you know it’s genuine. When a player asks you for advice on something I see that as a special moment too as they trust you enough to ask for your help.

Did you have a coach who influenced you as a young person?

I’ve been really lucky to have many great coaches and influential people in my life. my very first soccer coach was great, he used to pick me up and drop me home after practice because my parents couldn’t and as a shy child he pushed me to make friends with the other kids. He also taught me that winning wasn’t everything, to enjoy it and have fun!

[Tweet “while mistakes make us who we are they do not define us!”][/Tweet]

At Play Rugby we talk a lot about “Go Forward” – what does that mean to you?

I like to lead by example in creating a ‘Go Forward ‘attitude and make sure students understand that while mistakes make us who we are they do not define us! I think it’s important to help them understand that dwelling on mistakes only gets you stuck in the past. Instead I try and teach them to learn from them and move on because that’s the best thing you can do. If we do a drill and it’s not working out, it doesn’t mean the whole session was a failure, we move on to the next drill and come back to that the next day, identify what was wrong, maybe I didn’t explain it clearly so I need to work on that and we’ll try it again.

Thank you Kyla! We’re proud to have you on our team.

Check back soon to meet another of our incredible Youth Development Mentors, and as always you can keep up with us on social media:



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