Volunteering with Backyard Sports has been one of the few constants in my teenage years. While it is only an hour or two each week, this work is possibly the most rewarding I have done. I started in 7thgrade for my Bar Mitzvah project, and it took me a few sessions to really understand what I was doing. Making my first connection with an athlete was a powerful moment. I realized that what I was doing was bigger than sports. I was giving someone the opportunity to have an experience that they could not have somewhere else. We provided a safe, fun, and worry-free environment to give children of all ages and ability to play sports. And not only were we giving these children a platform to play sports, we were giving them friends.
There can often be stigma about disabilities, and people can struggle to connect with those who live with a disability. However, at BYS, this stigma is non-existent. I quickly saw that all volunteers were eager to see the athletes, and that the connections they made were genuine. Throughout my time, the bonds I have developed with athletes have become some of the most special ones I have formed in my life.
Now I am a senior in high school, with college just around the corner. The friendships that I have made with some children are long lasting. There are some athletes who I saw on my first day volunteering that I still see this year. That is awesome. There’s just no better way to put it.
Unfortunately, I am unsure if I will be able to see everyone again, or if I have already said my last goodbye to Backyard Sports Cares because of this unprecedented time. This is not how I hoped for my BYS career to end, but during this time I have put to use two valuable skills that I have learned as a volunteer: patience and adaptability.
Patience is a simple one. I have to remain calm and understand that things take time. This applies to BYS because some athletes can struggle with an activity, and the less patient a volunteer is, the less productive the activity. If an athlete sees that we are calm, they will feel calm as well, allowing for them to complete the task at hand.
Adaptability is about making the best of a situation. At BYS, we frequently modify activities to ensure that athletes can get the most meaningful experience possible. During these trying times, we must make changes to our life to keep it as normal as possible.
I want to thank everyone at Backyard Sports for all they have done for me through these past 6 years. All actions, no matter how large or small, count. I won’t say an official goodbye here because I remain hopeful that we will be able to see each other before I leave, but no matter what happens, I’ll be sure to visit.