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!

This month we’re highlighting on of our most energetic and enthusiastic YDMs, Sam McCarthy! She brings a wealth of experience from her diverse background of living, playing rugby, and traveling abroad. She joined the Play Rugby USA team in the Spring of 2013, and since then she’s become a seasoned veteran at our Sports Leadership Academy at PS 208.


How did you get involved with Play Rugby?
I’ve been playing rugby since I was in high school back in Hong Kong, and continued through college. After I graduated and moved to New York, I wasn’t ready to join a team yet, but wanted to stay involved in the rugby community. My dad was a coach, and my brother started playing when he was 6 or 7, and I saw how much fun they had so I thought I’d give coaching a shot!
What has your experience as a YDM been?
Definitely started off pretty challenging, you’re surrounded by a whole bunch of kids with endless energy, and you’ve got to create something that’s fun and engaging for them. As with anything, it gets easier as you find out what works and what doesn’t. Now it’s super rewarding, especially when you know that your kids are looking forward to playing rugby with you!14641070329_15865378dd_k
Can you share an example of one of your favorite experiences coaching?
When I was coaching in Chinatown a lot of the kids there spoke Chinese, and would speak it to each other during our sessions. I grew up speaking the language, but I hadn’t yet told the kids that. So one day they were particularly talkative and having a little trouble paying attention, so I butted into their conversation in Chinese, asking if they could please pay attention and get back to playing rugby. The surprise on their faces was great, followed by a lot of ‘You speak Chinese?!
Did you have a coach who influenced you as a young person?
I think my high school rugby coach, John Leeds, was a big impact on me, particularly when I first started playing the game. He had been my PE teacher for a couple years already, and I’d noticed how different he was as a coach, and not just our teacher. He was so passionate and invested in our games, and it really showed me how much passion can influence your person as a whole.
[Tweet “YDM Sam on #passion: it can influence your person as a whole”][/Tweet]
We have 5 Values in Action – Go Forward, Play What You See, Try Makers Not Just Try Scorers, Get There and Switch On – what’s your favorite and why?
I think my favorite is Play What You See. It’s not only about rolling with the punches, but making and taking opportunities that are presented to you. It ties in with all the other values pretty well, so I use it to remind the kids that making thoughtful decisions impacts everything you do. I try to get them to think on their actions after each session, so that reflecting and improving on themselves becomes a habit, rather than something to shy away from.
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