In a couple of days, the annual Celebrating Our Volunteers gala will take place and so there is no better time than now to honor other volunteers who also should take a bow: youth coaches.
They are major players in making the community what it is, especially for families. And once you see what goes into volunteer coaching - much of it off the court or the field - you have a new appreciation for the "work" that is involved and how our kids couldn't do what they do without them - from baseball and basketball to soccer and football and every sport in between.
They don't have more time than any other busy parent; they just make helping children and the team a bigger priority.
They are willing to put in the hours, to get up before dawn to put together practice plans or to handle emails from parents. They schedule times for practices and reserve locations to do just that. They fill out paperwork, deal with tournament directors, work with portrait photographers, handle uniforms and anything else in between.
Short on time, but big on generosity and in giving what they can, they volunteer because they understand the importance of youth activities and likely have the patience that allows for it.
They also take the heat, but they have the heart.
As much of a time commitment as it is, the payoff is even bigger. Any volunteer can attest to that. It's the reason they keep coming back.
Coaches understand firsthand the importance of being part of a team and how that can be especially vital for kids who have it rougher than their own. That for some kids, having a positive role model and an encourager is what they need more than the actual lessons of a game. They see that kids meeting kids from other schools and becoming buddies is community camaraderie at its best.
They relish all the victories that aren't noted on a scoreboard.
So as we thank volunteers in the Fox Valley, take time to remember those who won't be filling the seats at the banquet. Like any volunteer, coaches don't do it for the recognition but rather the knowledge of a job well done and for making a difference - in our cities and in our children.
Talk about a win-win.
- Julie Gilkay: 920-993-1000, ext. 319, or firstname.lastname@example.org. On Twitter @JulieGilkay. She is the mother of Benjamin, 11, Grace, 9, and Lucas, 7.