Meet the 2021 Coaching Corps Coach of the Year
| 4 min read
Seven years ago, the last thing on Laura Marquez’s mind was coaching. As a student at California State University San Marcos, she had a passion for giving back to the community, but she wasn’t looking to be responsible for any kids.
Then, a chance encounter changed everything. Marquez was walking with a friend on campus when she spotted a woman wearing a bright orange Coaching Corps T-shirt. Marquez asked about the shirt and learned all about the nonprofit, which uses sports and the power of positive coaching as a way to transform the lives of kids and teens in under-resourced communities.
Although Marquez had no experience coaching, she’d played soccer since age 4 — and knew firsthand how team sports can help kids overcome issues like anxiety and gain confidence, two things she was eternally grateful for. That’s why she decided to take a leap of faith, to try to inspire young players the same way that coaches inspired her growing up.
Since then, Marquez has coached baseball and soccer for dozens of boys and girls, ages 4 to 12, in communities in and around San Diego and Los Angeles. For her, the power of coaching is about making a real connection with at least one kid in every practice. “You have to have a coach that’s going to tell you. Hey, I believe in you. I see what you’re doing,” she says.
MOJO took a time out with Marquez — the Coaching Corps Coach of the Year for 2021 — to learn the secrets of her success as a coach.
Tell me about your toughest day on the field as a coach.
I was working in Oceanside at the YMCA. There was one little boy who would always throw a fit every single practice and never wanted to show up. He got so mad at me, he spit in my face.
I thought, This is NOT OK. And then I told the boy, “Hey, I know you’re frustrated. How do you want to improve practice?”
That’s something that I will ask the kids. I say, “If you all want to improve practice somehow, how do you think we could do that? How do you think we can help you learn? What do you all want to do?”
What did you learn from that day?
Since that practice, I’ve established goals and expectations and boundaries in the beginning of the season. Because when they’re getting out of line —talking down to each other, being aggressive, stuff like that — I am able to bring it back to what we talked about in the beginning. I can say, “Hey, you all helped me choose these rules. I didn’t make them up. We did these together. So, how do we change this?”
What is the one piece of coaching advice that you return to regularly?
Just taking it day by day, taking a step back and being proud of the little ones — whether it’s the shy kid finally getting the ball passed to him, or the one that knows it all who finally takes a step down and allows other people to step up. It’s the little wins.
What keeps you committed to coaching?
We are doing something. We are making changes. It’s just a matter of one person at a time. You don’t have to change the entire team. But if you can help at least one person, then I think it’s worth it at the end of the day.
Finish this sentence: You know you’ve got MOJO when…
… kids keep wanting to come back to practice.
In the beginning you might get kids who act like I don’t wanna be here. This is dumb! because their parents just wanted some after-school program. But it’s cool to see them at the end of the practice. They’ll give me a high five or a big hug or a fist bump — just something that lets me know, Hey, thank you for being here. Thank you for being my coach.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.