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People On The Move - Daryl Schwenck
07/03/2012 - By Chad Safran
Helping Kids Grow Through Sports
As a teacher at the Haines 6th Grade Center in Medford, NJ, Daryl Schwenck teaches Social Studies to children with disabilities. While making a positive impact on those in her classroom, she also finds time to help special needs kids in Holmdel through a sports program run by Holmdel F.C.
“I love working with these kids,” says Daryl, who began playing soccer at age 5, graduated from Marlboro High School in 1998, and eventually played college soccer at Kent State University in Ohio. “They are awesome in their own way. They impact my life positively. I have a theory that all children will bloom, and with expectation and motivation they can achieve anything they put their minds to. I don’t believe in saying a child can’t do something.”
Holmdel resident Valerie Marchiano, who was with the Holmdel Stallions before it merged with the town’s other soccer club to create Holmdel F.C. (where she is now first vice president), encouraged Daryl to begin the program after she coached Valerie’s daughter. Now, Valerie assists with getting the volunteers and a facility to help Daryl’s program operate successfully. “Daryl’s been phenomenal,” says Valerie. “Everybody loves the program.”
The goal of the program is to introduce children to a variety of sports, everything from soccer to basketball to tennis. Each class usually has anywhere from four to eight kids ranging in age from 7 to 10. The children, who have a range of disabilities including processing delays and autism, are paired up with a volunteer peer buddy from Holmdel F.C., who helps them through the activities.
“I want them to be exposed to different sports to help them in their gym class, as well as have the opportunity to be active and really excel at what they like,” says Daryl. “Throughout the program we focus on teamwork and social skills as well as motor skills. We try to keep them as active as we can. I like to expose the kids to as much as I can, and based on their interest, we can revisit those activities. I personally love the opportunity to work with my players and watch them grow and succeed.”
A typical class in the four week session begins with 10 minutes of running, hopping, skipping and stretching. The next 15 minutes focuses on soccer and includes five minutes of dribbling with your buddy, a short game of anatomy soccer where the students place a body part on the ball, for example left knee, some passing with a buddy, and then shooting the ball. Once a student has scored or shot 10 times then it’s time to move on to basketball. The kids practice dribbling with both hands, passing, and shooting before concluding the class with scooter races.
The program has been a positive for both parents and participants. Daryl has noticed significant improvement in her players. One child who couldn’t even reach the basket at the beginning is now able to confidently shoot the ball and make a basket. “The kids seem to have fun,” says Daryl, who when not working continues to play and coach soccer, as well as running and going to the beach. “We get to see their personalities and with the small group we can have fun. One parent wrote me a note stating how she had seen her son become more confident on field day and credited it to the exposure he had received in the program. Overall, our parents have been great; they support our program and understand the goal.”
Daryl is not only helping improve the lives of kids locally, but abroad as well. Two years ago, she went to Namibia in southern Africa to run two programs about sports and children with disabilities. This summer, she has been nvited back to that African nation to conduct workshops. No matter where she is assisting kids, Daryl tries to be a positive influence on their lives. “Every child is different,” she says. “I realize that we all have strengths and weaknesses. I choose to focus on and embrace the children’s strengths and motivate the children to do the best they can.
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