?Volunteer coaches are making a difference to athletes

      Michelle Melby Reporting
      Michelle Melby Reporting

      DE PERE- Across the country, volunteer coaches are "making a difference" in sports, like soccer.

      These people give their time, talent, and energy, to help teach young athletes.

      On summer evenings like this, groups of athletes gather to play.

      Fields filled with little feet and fancy footwork.

      There are parents. There are players. And there are coaches.

      Jamie Barrette is in his first year as a volunteer coach. He's the leader of his daughter's U-8 soccer team.

      "It's been awesome to watch the girls grow up, play as a team, and just develop as good soccer players," said Jamie Barrette, volunteer coach.

      Halfway through the season, things are getting a little easier for him.

      "I think the toughest thing was getting to know all of their names," said Barrette.

      Barrette's assistant is Matt Sahs. He's loves to coach, and has been helping for more than a decade.

      "I enjoy seeing the kids grow. I enjoy seeing the kids come out where they don't know each other at the beginning," Matt Sahs, volunteer coach.

      All of these coaches are a part of the De Pere Rapides Youth Soccer Club.

      The group's president says, volunteers are the lifeblood of the program.

      "Without the volunteers, we wouldn't be able to do the program at all. We have just over 1,300 players in the program, and 100 teams. And without all of the volunteer coaches, we have, we wouldn't be able to form the program, and have the kids have the opportunity to play soccer," said Jeff Derpinhaus, De Pere Rapides Youth Soccer Club.

      Throughout Northeast Wisconsin there are plenty of programs just like this. Right now, we are talking about soccer. But there are all sorts of athletics that depend on volunteer coaches for making a difference in their programs.

      The need for coaches continues year after year. Many just kind of fall into it.

      "My son wanted to play soccer. He asked me if I would be his coach. I volunteered to be assistant coach, and I ended up as head coach," said Elise Manders, volunteer coach.

      Volunteering does mean giving up some free time, on average, about one to two hours a week, during a six to seven week season.

      But all of the coaches smile when they talk about what they get back from their "job."

      "Just seeing the kids smile and having them come up and give me a hug," said Manders.

      "Some of them have no skills whatsoever. And if they can at least pass the ball by the end, or run the right direction, then I feel good about it," said Sahs.

      "I get a lot of self satisfaction. I get to give what I learn to the other girls, and they can take it and share it with others," said Barrette.

      This game has ended, but there will be many more.

      And many more coaches needed, all of them, making a difference, to the players.

      And after a quick cheer in the huddle...

      They're off, until they meet on the field for the next game.

      If you know of a person or program that is "Making a Difference" in our community, let us know. Email us or send a message to Michelle Melby's Facebook page.