Step into the Sneakers of a Junior Coach

By Coach Zandry

Recess is simultaneously one of the most treasured and most limited times during an elementary school day. Each of the 25 minutes students spend on the playground is precious, so it can be frustrating to waste time arguing about who kicked the ball out, whether or not they were tagged or who’s going to be “it.” Even engaged adults are not always able to catch all of the minor conflicts that occur between students, and these issues can often follow them back into the classroom. This can leave teachers to resolve issues that should have been left on the ourquare court, and takes away time that could be better spent learning in the classroom. This is where the Junior Coach Leadership Program comes into play.  

What is a Junior Coach?

“A Junior Coach is a helper!” -Melvin, 4th grade 

Junior Coaches (JCs) are typically 4th and 5th grade students who spend the school year learning how to be leaders – both on and off the playground – and help facilitate recess for their peers and younger students. In addition to attending trainings outside of school, they will work multiple “recess shifts” each week. During this time, JCs learn how to help other students calm down if they are upset about losing a game, as well as how to help them shake it off and try again. They learn how to use and encourage positive language during games such as “good job, nice try!”, and even how to facilitate group games for students at recess. Sometimes it really is all fun and games! 

What do Junior Coaches do at recess?

“Junior Coaches help kids play fair and be respectful.”- Isabella, 4th grade

Before recess starts, JCs report to duty to get their assignments for the day. I normally assign someone to work at the 4-Square Court, as well as someone to lead a group game. During recess, JCs work at their assigned areas to ensure that everyone is playing by the same rules, encouraging positive language and, of course, to help players resolve conflicts. At the end of recess, JCs are in charge of gathering all the recess equipment and putting it away, then giving high fives to students before they go back to class. 

What is the benefit of having Junior Coaches?

“It’s important to have Junior Coaches to help the adult coaches since they can’t help everyone at once.” -Abigail, 4th grade 

One of the biggest benefits of having JCs at my recess is that it empowers all students to foster a healthier, more inclusive community. While JCs have a specific leadership role of reminding students to use positive language or conflict resolution tools like Ro-Sham-Bo, this eventually becomes part of the recess and wider school culture. For example, following the positive example set by Junior Coaches, students at my school started to organically decide that if the soccer ball rolls out of the boundaries they should use ro-sham-bo to decide which team gets the ball. With JCs reinforcing positive language and problem-solving skills at recess each day, students are able to spend more of their time at recess actually playing. 

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