I’ve just returned from an incredible weekend working with the Yes Futures programme. I think I’ve mentioned it before but in case you don’t know, I’ve been working as a volunteer coach with Yes Futures at a school near Slough. Yes Futures run programmes for primary and secondary students to help them work on communication, confidence, resilience and self-awareness. They get 5 coaching sessions, 2 days out and an activity weekend away.
It’s been fairly challenging for me sometimes because I feel like I struggle to get the balance right between talking to 12/13 year olds (who I coach) like adults and also remembering that they won’t have had a lot of experiences that I sometimes use in adult coaching. I was also quite worried about the weekend away because it’s at a PGL activity centre and whether I’d be too tired, how much sleep I’d get, whether I’d have the authority to corral the students, whether they’d listen to me if I did find it etc. etc.
Turned out, I had nothing to worry about really. I mean, yes it was pretty tiring and I didn’t get as much sleep as I’d have liked but I do sleep a lot in general. But when you’re outside in the cold all day, you just have to layer up and get on with the activities as well. I even managed to abseil which is something I’ve wanted to try for years. I was scared because it’s pretty high and although I spent the whole time geeing up the students who were a bit scared that they wouldn’t fall and everything is really safe, it’s a different matter when it’s you giving it a try 😂.
In terms of authority, I worked up to it (as I always suggest for anything anyone wants to do that they’re unsure of). I tried a couple of dirty looks to start with and built up to yelling “OIIIII” down the corridor at some boys who tried to run in with filthy, muddy shoes (despite the massive sign telling them to take muddy shoes off).
I couldn’t believe that someone also expected me to help lead a group of students around like I’m some kind of authority figure. Luckily I was with two wonderful people who made me laugh so much and helped me find my place in the group. I’m really grateful to have been placed with them and really enjoyed getting to know these lovely people, alongside the students.
I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to say it is the most rewarding weekend I’ve ever spent. I’m still absolutely beaming with pride (and a little emotional) for the students I coach, as well as the group that I was helping to lead. Our group did really well. They won the first night contest and also won the overall star count (stars were handed out to students in any group who behaved well, got involved, demonstrated or worked on one of their 4 key skills etc) and my proudest moment was one of students I coached won the most amount of stars for the weekend.
I’m not ashamed to say I cried a little and my heart is very full after doing it. I think there’s something to volunteering, especially when it takes some courage on your part, that gives you such a great feeling. Helping those students and seeing them gain confidence to do things they were scared of is absolutely amazing.
On that note, I had a conversation with one of the students I coach who asked me over the spectacularly bad food if he gave me a billion pounds, would I drop everything and walk out the door. I explained that I didn’t get paid to be there that weekend, none of the coaches got paid to coach them in the first place and only a handful of the staff there were actually paid.
He was really surprised and later on that day, he came up to me and said a heartfelt thank you so much to me and all my fellow coaches for giving up their time to do this for them.
I don’t know about you, but that just makes all the worries, feeling exhausted and anything else completely and utterly worth it.
As a last note, if anyone thinks that sounds like a great thing to do but maybe you have to be a coach to do it. You don’t. Yes Futures train you and support you through the whole programme and I can’t recommend them and their staff enough.