An advantage of USC is that there are so many organizations outside of those affiliated with Viterbi to get involved in. One of the most grounding and memorable experiences of my freshmen year was coaching for the Trojan Youth Soccer League. My co-coach, a fellow freshman, and I had a team of 12 kids ages seven to nine. We had practices on Tuesday and Thursday and games on Saturday all at the Hoover Recreation Center right off of campus. I had played soccer for most of my life, but I had never coached prior to coming to USC.
Weekly practices started off with a light warm-up in a circle. The kids’ favorite warm-up exercise was arm circles, even though it had little relevancy to playing soccer. For the rest of practice, my co-coach and I organized different drills. I loved teaching the kids how to properly pass, trap, and shoot the ball with the laces of their shoe.
Games were even more exciting because I got to see my team implement the skills they learned in practice. Though unrelated to soccer, an opportunity for me arose during one game when a parent approached the coaches speaking in Spanish. As the only one who understood Spanish, I used this situation to both assist the parent and practice the Spanish I learned in high school. Later on, other occasions came up that required me to keep up with my Spanish.
Coaching soccer was a rewarding experience on so many levels. First, it was heartwarming to see the kids get excited about drills and games the way I used to. Second, it was gratifying to watch them improve from the first practice to the last game. Some of them couldn’t even kick the ball before they started, but on the last day, they were scoring goals! Personally, I learned how to lead by being firm with the kids but also having patience and letting them just have fun.
Finally, I would add that it has been important for me to do some kind of community service and get involved with the outside community. When engineering classes become tough and finals are around the corner, it is easy to forget about the people who live right off campus that may not have had the opportunity for a college education. Interacting with people outside of the college campus has given me a totally different perspective, and a very valuable one at that.