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Cook County Coaching Call to the Community

In the close-knit community of Cook Coun­ty, known for its stunning natural beauty and strong sense of togetherness, school sports play an essential role in the lives of young athletes. The success of these sports programs largely depends on the commitment and ded­ication of coaches who instill valuable life skills in the next generation of players.

Krista Olson, the Early Childhood and Community Education Coordinator for Cook County Public Schools, is one of those dedi­cated individuals who have taken on multiple roles to ensure the growth and development of young athletes. When she first moved to the area, there wasn’t a softball program for her daughter’s grade, so she worked with the community to start one. There wasn’t a hock­ey team either, so she teamed up with another community member, Matt Stone, and revived the Cook County Youth Hockey Association.

With nearly a decade of experience in a community education director position, Kris­ta has been excited to bring her diverse set of skills and licenses to the role. She told me she wears about eight different hats. She also filled in the shoes of Rachel Leigh Cook as her stand-in in the Christmas movie filmed in Duluth this spring.

A coach herself, she can attest to the importance of youth sports for both the athlete and the community. She and her husband have coached 4th-6th grade softball for the past two seasons. She believes that coaching young children is not just about teaching them basic skills, but also instilling values such as team building, sportsmanship, and camarade­rie. Starting kids on their sports journey at a younger age ultimately contributes to stronger middle school and high school sports teams in the future.

Currently, Cook County is on the lookout for dedicated basketball coaches to guide young athletes. The need for coaches is particularly acute for co-ed teams in grades K-2, girls grades 3-4, and boys in grades 3-4. While the 5th and 6th-grade teams have their coaching positions covered, the K-4 teams are facing a shortage of coaching volunteers.

As Krista emphasizes, “If we don’t have par­ent volunteers, we can’t have the program.” The key challenge often lies in parents feeling ill-equipped to take on the coaching role, especially when they lack previous coaching experience or are unfamiliar with a specific sport. To address this issue, Cook County’s Community Education program provides a coaching handbook with helpful links con­taining practice drills and skill-building resources. Co-coaching arrangements are com­mon, and the community member does not have to have a child participating in the pro­gram to volunteer.

For parents and community members, becoming a coach means not only sharing their passion for sports, but also helping children develop their foundational skills and values that will serve them well in the future. The joy of seeing children grow, succeed, and become valuable contributors to their community is an immeasurable reward for coaches.

As Krista aptly puts it, “A good coach real­ly knows how to build the next community of group leaders within a sport. It’s more about team building, leadership, camaraderie, and cheering for one another.” Ultimately, coach­ing becomes a means of molding the next generation and guiding them toward becoming responsible, caring, and capable community members.

If you have a love for sports and a desire to inspire and shape the future, consider taking on the role of a coach in Cook County. Your involvement could be the catalyst that ignites the love for sports in a child’s heart and sets them on a path to success, both on and off the field or court.

Cook County Community Education is also always on the lookout for individuals with talent and skills they would like to share, especially those that aren’t currently offered in the area. Consider sharing your talent to promote a lifelong love of learning.

For more information, please contact Krista Olson at krolson@isd166.org or call 218-387-2271, extension 401.

Feel free to contact me at sarahwritesnsj@yahoo.com with any news we should know about!

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