Each month, DC SCORES highlights a volunteer that has made a significant impact on the program. It would be impossible to give over 1,450 students throughout the District the quality programming they receive without the help of our volunteers. To learn about volunteer opportunities, visit www.DCSCORES.org.
This month we highlight Sam Zivin, who volunteers as the main soccer coach at KIPP WILL in Ward 2. Sam recently took a few minutes to talk about his experience volunteering for DC SCORES.
Are you currently employed or a student? If so, where?
I am a teacher at KIPP DC WILL Academy. I teach seventh and eighth grade special education. I am also the eighth grade Level Chair, which basically means I’m in charge of the eighth grade. I run teacher and student meetings, teacher meetings, schedule field trips and sometimes I have to play a disciplinary role.
How did you get involved with DC SCORES?
I first started at KIPP four years ago and we didn’t have a soccer team. We had everything we needed – a soccer coach, a soccer field at our disposal, but no team. We tried getting involved in the charter league. But nothing ever happened, and parents were getting frustrated. We first connected with DC SCORES through the U.S. Soccer Foundation. We had been working with the Foundation when they were building the turf field across the street from KIPP. We started talking with Kenny (DC SCORES’ Athletic Director at the time) and we finally got a team going. I guess that was two years ago, and we have been in the league ever since.
How long have you been volunteering with DC SCORES?
It’s been about two and a half years – I think it has been phenomenal. For both me and my kids, it has been a great experience. I grew up playing soccer. I started playing when I was 5, but I never had the opportunity to coach. Obviously, I work with kids, and having the opportunity to work with my students out on the field makes our relationship in the classroom a lot stronger. It gives me a lot of insight into the students, which has been a real plus.
Also, being active three days a week playing with the kids -- having to come up with strategies on how to coach -- has been a really good thing for me and I’ve really enjoyed it. I should also say, it’s been challenging, as well as positive. It’s been challenging because I’ve been starting with a team that has never played soccer before; sixth- and seventh-graders who have never played before. It’s been a challenge for me to make it interesting and also instill those basic skills.
What made you come back this year?
Oh, I’m in every year. For me, it’s about the kids. The kids see me every day. At this point – two years into coaching – it’s established at our school that we have a soccer team. I could not let the kids down by saying I’m not doing it. Also, we have a lot of returning players that I wanted to coach this year. From a logistics standpoint, there is not a lot we have to do. DC SCORES provides the equipment, the buses, the teams – all I have to do is show up and coach. For other leagues, it always seems like our games are canceled. So to know we have games and equipment, makes the logistics very easy.
What do you find most interesting about DC SCORES?
I find the concept of the poetry and soccer to be very intriguing. KIPP has extended school day, meaning that the school day will often run till 5pm, so we don’t have time to implement the poetry. But the idea of having the kids work on their creative side – it’s an intriguing connection on how it relates to soccer. I hope that one day we can implement that program. There is no way I can do both of those things, but one of the things that our kids need specifically are more creative outlets. I think we are really good at giving them what they need academically, but there are times I feel we can do more for the creative outlets they have access to. DC SCORES enables them to have a voice both with poetry and soccer.
Describe your most enjoyable experience volunteering for DC SCORES
The camaraderie I see my group of young men have together is always the most enjoyable thing. When I see them get together and I see an eighth-grader leading a sixth-grader in stretching and everyone listening to him and he is being empowered by that experience. When I see an eighth-grader helping out a sixth-grader in the hall because they are on a team together, I know that would not happen otherwise.
Everyone is working together toward a common goal; it is the most rewarding experience. We have not had a lot of success in terms of wins over the year, which has been frustrating for me as a coach and for my players. But I know that overall, my team shows a lot of heart and a lot of character and they enjoy being out there and playing together.
What motivates you to want to volunteer?
What motivates me is giving the kids the opportunity to be a part of something really positive, specifically organized sports after school. A lot of kids play sports but have not experienced an organized sport. For me growing up as a young kid, that was so important. Every day after school I was involved in some sort of team, so knowing what a big part of my childhood that was, providing that opportunity in their life is really important.
What do you like to do with your free time?
I really enjoy sleeping. I try to do that as much as possible. I like a good nap. I like to spend as much time outside as possible. I also love spending time with my beautiful fiancé. I am recently engaged! I like to bike – I bike to work every day. Honestly, when I’m not doing DC SCORES or at school, I’m chillin’.
Who is your favorite athlete?
I have to say, without a doubt, Walter Payton, No. 34, the great Chicago Bears running back because 1) He wasn’t really a big guy and I also am not a really big guy – but he played like he was a big guy because he would never run out of bounds and he would also try to hit the other guy before he got hit. He was a player with tremendous heart, even though he wasn’t the biggest or fastest. And 2) He was a man of high character and value – I don’t think you see that a lot any more.
Who is your favorite singer or poet? What music are you into right now?
My favorite singer could go two different directions. I really like Neil Young, but then in the toner direction I’m also a big R. Kelly fan.
If you could only eat one food for the next month, what would it be?
Mash potatoes. I really love mash potatoes. And if not mash potatoes, it would be popcorn. And if not popcorn, it would be beans and rice.
Any other interesting information about yourself?
I’m excited for next season!