From Player to Coach: The Importance of Youth Sports
Pat Kelley, a senior laboratory technician at SGH’s Applied Science & Research Center, has dedicated himself to volunteering with youth sports in his local town of Billerica, MA. Here, he talks about how his involvement with the programs began, some of his favorite experiences, and what he has learned along the way.
What type of volunteer work do you do?
I work with youth sports in the town of Billerica. Over the years, I’ve assisted the cheerleading program and coached baseball and basketball. I’m also the director of youth basketball for boys and girls in the town.
How long have you been working with these teams?
I initially started coaching basketball in 2010, when my kids were on the team. Pretty quickly after, I got involved as an umpire for baseball, and just recently started coaching my own team. In 2017, I started working with the Billerica Memorial High School Cheerleading team. By now, my own kids haven’t been in the district for about ten years, so my role has continued much beyond their time in school.
Why is it important to give back to your community?
I grew up just a few towns over in Arlington, MA, and I played tons of youth sports, including baseball, basketball, flag football, and others. It meant a lot to me that someone took time out of their day and their life to help me be better at sports and to be better as a person. Sports can teach you a lot of things growing up that you don’t always learn in a classroom. I wanted to do that for kids, and I feel like I can really help them.
I think youth sports give kids a sense of self, and teach them how to work with others and build their confidence—it can set them on a positive path. For me, I just hope I can impact a few kids positively here or there. That’s enough to make a difference.
I’m here to help kids improve in their sports. If I can teach them a life lesson or two along the way, that’s even better.
Do you have a favorite experience working with any of these organizations?
My favorite experience is just seeing the kids work together as a team and help each other out. It doesn’t seem like much, but I’ve always instilled the idea that when one teammate gets knocked down, they’re not getting up by themselves. Two people are always going to help them up, because that’s what a team does, no matter what the other circumstances are.
What motivates you to continue working with your teams?
Now that I’ve been doing this for so many years, I will be out to dinner and run into kids I coached as ten- or twelve-year-olds who are now in their twenties. They’ll come over and thank me for coaching them back in the day. It’s always nice to hear that I was a positive impact in their lives. A lot of times at the end of the season, parents will want to give us money or gift cards, but I don’t need that. I’m not here for gifts or accolades. I’m just here to help kids improve in their sports. If I can teach them a life lesson or two along the way, that’s even better.
What advice would you give to other people looking to volunteer their time?
If you are going to do it, make the time and enjoy it. If you’re going to volunteer just to say you’re volunteering and you’re not going to like it, you won’t get much out of it and the kids will pick up on your lack of interest. I get really into it, and the kids appreciate that. We do a lot of extracurriculars with the teams as well, like having them scrimmage during the halftime of a college game. So that’s what I would say: make sure you are dedicated to what you are volunteering for. It makes a difference.