The annual Game Changer Awards presented by Coaching Corps has brought out some of the biggest names in sports since its inception in 2017. That includes this year's keynote speakers Steve Kerr, head coach of the three-time NBA champion Golden State Warriors and groundbreaking San Francisco Giants coach Alyssa Nakken.
The mission of Coaching Corps is best embodied by the annual winner of the organization's Coach of the Year and this year is no exception.
Despite being limited to a live stream because of the coronavirus pandemic, February 16 was still a day of celebration as San Diego-based soccer coach Laura Marquez was honored as the Game Changer Coach of the Year.
The Game Changer Awards show has been a platform for coaches and players alike, across the sports world to express how important the role of being a coach is, as well as describe the impact coaches have had on them in the past.
Coaching Corps Regional Manager approached Marquez while she was a student at Cal State-San Marcos and explained how getting involved with the organization would be a great way to stay involved with soccer.
Marquez, who was already an active member on campus felt that she “needed something more with the community and this was a perfect fit.” And so she began working with La Muestra Foundation in San Diego.
On the Game Changer Awards live stream, Bay Area journalist Joan Ryan described Marquez as someone who is “caring and dedicated, who is looking to help kids grow." Marquez herself described her foremost purpose to be a role model and explained the importance of being a person of color in her position.
“It’s important to have someone who looks like them,” said Marquez. “I didn’t see a lot of Latinas leading groups or being the chair of boards, so I always made it a mission of mine to rise above it and show these kids they can make positive impacts in their communities too.”
Above all, Marquez tries her best to support her soccer pupils with issues they may be having at home and is there to talk about things much larger than just the game of soccer. She explained how she truly feels a deep happiness when she sees that her players are happy and simply enjoying the sport they are playing.
“I think at the end of the day, I’m there to cheer them on,” Marquez said. “A lot of the kids seemed like they just wanted to be heard, and it was shown in many different ways. All were signs to give them a little extra love and show them they had potential.”
In her early life and still to this day, Marquez at times finds herself overcome with anxiety. Fortunately, working with Coaching Corps and these underserved children has helped her insurmountably with her anxiety.
“Coaching helps me because it reminds me that at the end of the day there is always someone to help and helping others brings me back down to earth when I’m dealing with a panic attack,” Marquez explained. “I might see myself low, but I’ll always mean something to someone else and that’s what coaching these kids has really shown me.”
Lastly when asked what coaching her players have taught her the most Marquez explained, “I’ve learned that my passion is helping youth in under-resourced communities discover their passion, potential, and drive to keep going.”
Marquez is now pursuing a Masters in Social Work and her story as well as the work Coaching Corps does is a reminder of an important reality. Not everyone is given a fair crack at life from the moment they are born. However, the power of sports and the power of coaching has the potential to provide hope to these children as well as give them a reason to wake up looking forward to what is ahead.
Coaching Corps as an organization holds a strong belief that sports are a vessel to improve the lives of the younger generations as well as provide opportunities for growth and mentorship that many children would not receive otherwise. The organization focuses specifically on low-income communities with young athletes yearning to play the games they love, but struggle to do so in part because of the lack of well-equipped coaches.
To remedy this crisis, Coaching Corps trains and supports community leaders who are eager to be the change they hope to see in their communities. As of 2020, they have produced 18,000 coaches for hundreds of after school sports programs, reaching upwards of 200,000 underserved youth across the nation. This has massively leveled the playing field in youth sports, and as a continued rise in the cost to play youth sports is evident, the importance of Coaching Corps cannot be understated.
These kids need a role model, and they need someone to assure them that they are not defined by their surroundings. Coaching Corps provides these services, and although everyone wants to be a star player on TV, there is nothing wrong with striving to be just like Laura Marquez.