Why “Coach” Will Always be My Favorite Name

Written by: Kate Nilles, Girls in the Game After School Program Partnership Manager

One of the many aspects I love about working at Girls in the Game is that I frequently have the opportunity to put aside the realities of my adult, working life to see Girls in the Game After School Programs in action. Something about being in a space where conversations about what your favorite animal is and how many grapes a classmate was able to fit in her mouth during lunch, makes me reflect on what my life was like when I was our After School participants’ age.

Growing up, sports were a major part of my life, though I didn’t think much of it at the time. The routine of waking up on Saturday mornings to play soccer felt like a childhood rite of passage. I put up with teammates who got angry when we lost, waiting an extra few minutes for someone to come off the sidelines so I could get some water, and endlessly trying to figure out what “offsides” meant. That’s what you had to go through before you can be an adult who gets to sit on the sidelines and drink coffee in a lawn chair.

As I got older, I continued to trudge through the commitment of showing up to practices and games, hustling and cheering on my teammates, but this time with the understanding that “exercise is good for me.” Health is what it’s about! I have to run laps, sub in for my teammates’ positions I don’t normally play and practice the drills we’ve done a hundred times because that’s what you had to go through before you can be an adult who can go to the gym on their own time to exercise.

It wasn’t until I was in high school when I learned that sports are more than just a childhood rite of passage. I was fortunate to have a coach who guided my thinking into the land of the “bigger picture.”

He taught me that my years of playing sports shaped my ability to be a team player, to be committed, to use my time wisely, to problem solve, to be patient, to ask for help, to keep my body healthy, to pull myself up after a loss and to celebrate any and all victories.

Being a part of Girls in the Game has given me the opportunity to become that guide for the girls in our After School Program and our Summer Camp. As a Coach, I’ve been able to support girls in the moments where they think that trying a new sport is too hard or that working through a conflict with a teammate isn’t worth it. “Coach” is a title I wear with pride. It is one that I recognize comes with a lot of power and influence for good. Since I’m not out coaching every week anymore, any time I hear “Hey, Coach Kate!” I’m excited by the idea that my name, and more importantly that I’m a coach, is remembered by the girls who I had in our programs a couple of years ago.

It is my hope that the girls who are a part of our programs stay with Girls in the Game so that they can one day add the “Coach” title to their name. Then they can guide the next generation of female leaders.

Kate Nilles is the After School Program Partnership Manager. Kate came to Girls in the Game as a Jesuit Volunteer two years ago and is passionate about healthy opportunities for girls. In her free time, Kate can be found running, biking or playing the traditional Irish harp.