For Darcy Smith, the saying there’s no ‘I’ in team has never rung more true than this holiday season.
Smith, the head coach of the Juan de Fuca Soccer Association’s U14 gold boys team and the U16 gold girls team, has donated dozens of toys to the annual Santas Anonymous campaign – all thanks to the hard work of 32 young players.
“I’m overwhelmed and surprised about what a great experience it was for the kids. It worked out better than I ever thought,” said Smith, a Highlands resident, whose son and daughter play on the teams.
“It think it had a bigger affect on the kids in a positive way, not only for individual kids, but on a team basis as well.”
At the beginning of the season, Smith set goals for each team as a way of bringing them closer together – a tactic he learned during a keynote speech at a soccer conference about a year ago at the University of British Columbia about building positive team culture in communities. If they reached the goal by December, the players were able to pick out toys to donate to Santas Anonymous.
Each week, Smith, along with the help of his wife Bry-Anna, set out a new goal. But rather than focusing on winning or losing, they focused on reaching a certain number of passes in a game, seeing a certain number of players taking shots or only allowing a player to score one goal per game. And week after week, the teams continued to reach their goals.
Earlier this month, the players got to see the results of their hard work. The two teams picked names from the Santas Anonymous tree at Westshore Town Centre and fanned out to choose gifts for 65 children in need this Christmas.
“The parents will a lot of the time donate things [to Santas Anonymous] themselves and not many kids get that opportunity to be able to give back themselves. I think a lot of the kids were excited to get the opportunity to have the responsibility to be giving back,” Smith said. “It was team-building as well.”
Team manager Maria Madison, whose daughter is on the U16 girls team, said Smith has made an impact on the players.
“I thought it was amazing. I think it’s great that he’s always trying to think of these neat things and give back to the community,” she said. “He’s a great coach.”
And the teams aren’t stopping there. Smith said he’ll continuing the initiative into the second part of the season as well.