When I was younger, my little sister followed me around and copied everything I did. Believe me, I was far from the coolest kid on the planet, but she looked up to her older sister. Most kids idolize their older peers.
What a smart move, then, for Coaldale’s Jenny Emery Elementary school, to turn their regular before and after school sports programming into a mentorship opportunity. It’s a perfect way to get kids excited about sports and activity by letting them learn from the peers they emulate. Moreover, the older kids (aged 9 through 12) get to design the program themselves, so they don’t just help, they learn through experience, become more active, and gain independence, too.
The program came from the minds of Paige Rauda, co-ordinator of the program, and Stephanie Wierl, community services manager for the Town of Coaldale, and the results were immediate. Rauda noted incredible growth in the older kids who took their mentor role seriously and observed an improvement in all the kids’ social skills and physical literacy. Increased confidence, self-esteem, and leadership from the mentors were an especially noteworthy result. Meanwhile, the younger kids gained more information and learned better, because they were being coached by peers, not adults.
Rauda and Wierl both feel that this program needs to continue, not just as a wonderful mentorship opportunity, but because it particularly helps the older kids who are at an ideal age to get excited about their own physical literacy skills as they head into more and more competitive sports endeavours.
How can we use Coaldale’s success to create our own sports enthusiasts? For starters, we can suggest a similar mentorship program with schools and community centres in our own cities. But it doesn’t have to be that formal. We can start within our families. Have an older brother design an obstacle course. Let your little daughter learn how to ride a bike from her cool older cousin. Having a hard time teaching your kids how to throw and catch? Let big sister show them how it’s done.
Hey, you can even try this approach with your friend’s kids, allowing parents the rare opportunity to actually have a conversation while their children are active and learning. Mentorship, skills, and a story told from start to finish. Let’s make this a reality.