This month we honor Seth Fisher as our June Coach of the Month. Seth arrived as a mid-year hire in a school that has had some turnover. Right off the bat, Seth went to work rebuilding relationships with teachers and administrators and giving his students a constant positive role model to look up to every day. For that and so much more Playworks Salt Lake City Honors Seth as our Coach of the Month for June 2013.
Can you talk a little bit about the way you've built built relationships at heartland and some of the unique challenges you faced coming into that school mid-year?
Coming into the school year mid-way through definitely had its share of challenges. Though I was slightly discouraged and a little bit nervous, I recognized that I had the ability to achieve my goal simply by doing what I had been taught by the staff and by doing what I know how to do as a professional.
In my first week, I sent a letter to all staff and faculty letting them know I was there to stay and to do my job. I assured them I was someone they could depend on, trust with their students and enjoy having around. However, we all know that talk is cheap. The only thing to do at that point was to follow through with my promises.
What got me to this point was assertiveness, professionalism, and consistency. I came to school every day. I went to each teacher that was scheduled for class game time (CGT) every day to make sure that they knew it was their day. I was on time for all recesses and CGTs. I made sure that every CGT was time that the teachers felt was well spent and not a waste. I made sure that every aspect of my program at Heartland was viewed as a positive experience — time and money well spent in the eyes of the teachers and faculty. Every class happily and readily attends CGTs, the students enjoy having our program at their school, and importantly to me, the entire staff and faculty have embraced me as one of their own.
What is your background and experience?
My entire life I have been a sports and recreation enthusiast. I learned to ride a bike, ski, and play baseball and soccer all at a very young age. I don’t recall a day in my childhood in which I was not outside working on my soccer skills, playing catch with my brothers, or playing roller hockey with my friends to the point that my mother had to literally scream at me to come inside for a late dinner.
I was also lucky enough to grow up in a neighborhood with many close friends who were also sports nuts. When I say that I played sports every day of my childhood, I am not exaggerating one bit. It was the only way that I was able to sleep at night. And when I wasn’t playing sports, I was watching them on tv with a focus that I wasn’t able to trigger regarding anything else in life. Everywhere I went I brought some sort of ball with me. I would constantly force my little brother to play with me, even though he hated sports and was not the athlete I was.
My mother was continuously apologizing to people in grocery stores, airports, and other public places because I would get in their way while dribbling my soccer ball. I’m proud of my playful childhood because it has not only taught me many valuable life lessons and provided me with close friendships that I might not have otherwise formed, but provided me with things that I enjoy and that I am deeply passionate about. Sports was all I knew as a child, and I can honestly say that enjoying myself through sport is all I know as an adult.
I began playing organized sports at the age of 4. By six, I was involved in travel soccer, little league baseball, and recreational basketball. At 13, I focused my time solely on soccer, playing year round on my travel team and with school. I lived and breathed soccer for as long as I can remember. I began working with kids when I was about 14. I worked at a summer camp, and also volunteered at seasonal soccer camps and clinics. I've always enjoyed working with children and also very much enjoyed involving others in sport. I worked at soccer clinics every year until I left for college. I spent 5 years as a soccer referee at all levels.
The thing that I am possibly most proud of is the two years I spent as the head coach of a youth travel soccer team. Thinking about the progress that I was helping these young athletes make provided me with a feeling that I had never gotten in life, and honestly makes me tear up when I sit back and think about it. Sports are my true passion in life, and passing what makes me happy on to other people is what I find to be rewarding.
What drew you to being a coach with Playworks?
Playworks itself. Everything it stands for, its mission is and the type of people an organization like this employs. I recognized this as an opportunity to do something that I truly enjoy doing. To pass my love of sport, and life experiences, on to young students was an opportunity that I couldn’t pass up.
I also find it appealing that Playworks is all about fun and inclusion. It's nice to provide sport and activity in such a way that tryouts and cuts don’t exist. In such a way that winning isn’t even a thought on the mind, rather that enjoyment is our goal. It’s simply great to be a teacher of sport and activity that caters to children whose life goal is not to be a professional athlete. As an overly competitive person whose life has consisted of little more than sport, it’s great to know that there are others that have recognized that you don’t need to be a professional athlete, or competing for a trophy or recognition to enjoy sport. Sport should be shared with, and enjoyed by, all. The fact that we are able to provide this service while directly linking it to the daily learning at elementary schools is nothing short of spectacular.
What are some highlights of your program at your school?
The special education "Excel" program at my school is pretty unique. The students in this program all fall somewhere on the autism spectrum, and each class is comprised of children with varying degrees of the disorder. I enjoy working with these children, and the consistent challenge the classes present.
Another highlight of my program is an aspect that I’m sure I share with many of our other PCs, and that is the Junior Coach (JC) program. When I arrived at Heartland the JCs were already selected. I gave them a month or two to prove that they were reliable, and that they wanted to be a part of that program. After my evaluations, I made the decision to wipe my JC program clean and start from scratch.
This was quite a bold move, being that it was already February. This gave me little time to train my new JCs. I also had no idea if there were better candidates out there that weren’t already involved in the program. And with that, we started the process over. After reopening the application process, I selected 12 new JCs, and these JCs have been awesome. They have willingly attended meetings/trainings and have done superb job out on the playground. They arrive at recess on time with sincere enthusiasm. These students provide additional aspects of play that I as a PC simply cannot provide, and have truly helped my program blossom into the program that is has become.
The final aspect of my program I highlight is the time that I spend teaching fundamental athletic skills to the students. I don’t believe that it is enough to teach the children the rules of games and to tell them to go play. It is imperative that we teach the children proper ways to kick a soccer ball, proper running techniques, proper ways to throw and catch a football. This aspect allows the students to play more safely, empowers them with more confidence, and exponentially increases their ability to learn further as they encounter more aspects of sport each and every time they engage.