Note: This is an entry in our Community Roll Call Series, a biweekly collection of our internal team’s personal experiences building and strengthening community in their own lives. If you’re inspired by something you see, connect with us:

Community is something everyone searches for – and it can easily be found if you know where to look.

For many, community can start at a young age via youth sports. Youth sports offers community not only to the children and teens who partake, but also to the parents who bring their children to practices and games and the coaches and instructors that help teach and guide the young athletes. Youth sports can be a pivotal part of a child’s development. It helps them find independence, often away from their parents and guardians, but at the same time teaches them how to work with others and be part of a team. 

Coaches serve as instrumental community builders, responsible for bringing the children and parents together. Often helping the team align on expectations and guiding principles that each child, parent, and coach can expect from one another. Guidelines such as how each person deserves to be treated, style of play, and the role of each person helps to set the team up as a successful community. Coaches may also play the role of team manager, leading communications amongst the team via email or other digital platforms. 

While creating a roster of players is easy, building a team that offers a strong sense of community and camaraderie takes time and dedication. Building a safe environment for children and teens to learn in while also feeling comfortable enough to fail is vital. Players must trust their coaches to guide them and lead them in the right direction while also feeling empowered to be leaders themselves. 

Coaches can build out training sessions and set up drills during practices, but community is not built on the field alone. Bonding occurs both on and off the field; some of the best memories that bring individuals together happen off the field. From singalongs on the bus to team dinners and carpooling to games and practices, bonds and rituals form in these off-the-pitch settings. While a coach can help point the team in the right direction to build these connections and memories, the players are often left to follow through and become the heart of the team in these settings. 

When I think back on some of the earliest communities I have been a part of, I immediately jump back to the memory of my first select soccer team. I found a group of like-minded adolescent girls who were passionate about the beautiful game. We were excited to learn, develop our athleticism, socialize, and compete. 

I grew up with this team of 15 girls – playing the sport we loved, exploring new cities across the state, and bonding with each other and our families. While we were competing for minutes on the field, we always  supported and cheered each other on, knowing we were all working together for the same goal: to get better and beat our opponents. 

As we got older, hit high school, and then graduated and went our separate ways to different schools, my select soccer team has remained a group of women I look up to and see as family to this day. It’s all thanks to the community that the players, coaches, parents, and extended family helped create.

Today, I find myself helping create communities like the one I was a part of for so long as a soccer coach. The memories I fondly look back on help guide me as I strive to create team environments (or communities) that remind me of the one I loved so dearly. 

– Megan Otto

Want to connect with me? Click here. 

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