Wednesday, 22 May 2024

How Teams Can Meaningfully and Safely Give Back

The cancellation of school sports due to COVID-19 has created an opportunity for coaches and parents to help young athletes focus on giving back to their communities. Instead of games and scrimmages, team unity can be fostered through volunteer opportunities. This not only teaches kids the importance of helping others but also strengthens their bond as a team. Additionally, research has shown that volunteering can have a positive impact on mental health during these challenging times.

Jamie Kay Discher, Director of Girl Experience for the Girl Scouts Heart of New Jersey, has shared some ideas on how children and teams can give back safely and healthily this season.

Get Informed

In the Girl Scouts, volunteer opportunities go beyond a checklist. The girls are encouraged to choose projects they are passionate about, and leaders support them in the process. Discher emphasizes the importance of research and decision-making in the giving back process. When starting, it’s crucial to figure out what interests the team. Brainstorm different ways to give back and make a list of options. However, it’s equally important to ensure that the chosen project addresses a genuine need in the community. Checking with relevant organizations, such as animal shelters, to confirm the need for specific donations is a crucial step.

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Get Outside

Engaging in socially distanced outdoor activities can have a significant impact while ensuring safety. Stream, park, and roadside cleanups are excellent examples of such activities. Discher suggests that organized cleanups, like watershed cleanups and forest regeneration projects, continue to be viable options, even while maintaining social distance. For athletes, a simple unofficial trash pickup during a hike or coordinating with the local parks and recreation department can make a substantial difference.

Get Online

There are limitless opportunities for virtual volunteerism. Discher shares the story of a girl who was planning to help residents in assisted living facilities by teaching them about cybercrime safety. However, due to the pandemic, she had to adapt her approach and recorded her lessons as videos. The videos were then broadcasted by the facility on their TV systems for residents to watch. This example shows that creativity can still make a difference. Athletes can explore their own strengths, such as offering virtual painting or cooking classes through local libraries.

Get Offline

While physically visiting senior living facilities may not be possible, athletes can become pen pals with individuals at senior centers who are craving social interactions. The Girl Scouts have a national service project dedicated to this, but teams can also directly contact local nursing homes and senior centers to initiate similar programs. Writing letters can be an excellent opportunity for younger athletes to practice their penmanship and writing skills while providing much-needed comfort and entertainment.

Get Involved with Citizen Science Service Projects

Citizen Science projects allow anyone to contribute to scientific research using computer interfaces. Discher explains that organizations like SciStarter offer various research projects that require people to observe their environment and report the data. Some projects, like the OpenSidewalks survey, can even be done while running or walking. This way, athletes can contribute to scientific advancements while staying active.

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Q: How can athletes give back during the COVID-19 pandemic?

A: Athletes can give back by engaging in volunteer opportunities within their communities. This can be done through outdoor activities like cleanups, virtual initiatives, offline programs like becoming pen pals with seniors, or participating in citizen science service projects.

Q: What are the benefits of giving back through volunteerism for young athletes?

A: Giving back through volunteerism not only helps athletes build a stronger sense of unity and teamwork but also provides them with valuable life skills. Research has shown that volunteering can have a positive impact on mental health, particularly during challenging times like the COVID-19 pandemic.


Although the COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted school sports, athletes have an opportunity to give back to their communities while ensuring their safety. By getting informed, athletes can choose projects they are passionate about and address genuine community needs. Engaging in outdoor activities, going online, becoming pen pals with seniors, or participating in citizen science service projects are all meaningful ways for athletes to make a difference. Volunteering not only strengthens team unity but also provides young athletes with valuable life skills for their future success.

To learn more about how teams can give back and make a positive impact, visit Join us in creating a culture of giving back and making a difference in the world.