Coaching From Home
For Alejandro Cortez, a normal day entailed heading to class at Rio Hondo Community College, doing some engineering homework and then heading to SCGA Junior Player & Youth Development (PYD) classes, where he worked as a coach. Amidst the global COVID-19 pandemic, his normal routine has been turned on its head.
Cortez, an SCGA Junior scholar, is now taking online courses, quite the adjustment for someone who is working on enough units to earn five associates degrees before he transfers to a university where he hopes to study mechanical engineering.
When stay-at-home orders kicked in, he was thrust into the workforce at his father’s distribution company and his mother’s day care.
“I helped before coronavirus, but not as much because my parents always encouraged me to focus on school,” Cortez said. “I share a car with my parents, so sometimes I would help with deliveries or pick my siblings up from school, but now I do a lot more.”
On top of still doing deliveries, Cortez has helped the business — which normally deals in construction supplies — transition to personal protective equipment (PPE) and everyday health supplies. Cortez has been teaching himself to code while at home so he can help build the company’s website. He’s also found innovative ways to engineer products that are in high demand. For example, spray bottles for hand sanitizer are hard to come by, but perfume spray bottles aren’t, so that’s what Cortez suggested to his dad.
The spray sanitizer is now part of a personal supply kit that also includes gloves and masks, which have been in high demand.
“We want to make it so that people have something that they can carry with them everywhere and use on a daily basis whenever they need it,” Cortez said.
Through connections that he’s made with SCGA Junior, the company is selling PPE to Pico Rivera GC, one of the facilities where Cortez grew up playing and where he now coaches every week.
“SCGA Junior always encourages us to meet new people, make connections, and it’s paying off,” Cortez said. “I realized that I can apply all these skills that I’ve been practicing through golf in a business setting.”
He hasn’t stopped there. As a PYD coach, Cortez has received quarterly youth development training covering topics such as connecting with kids of different ages and backgrounds, positive coaching techniques and the behaviors of a good role model.
“Kids ultimately benefit when our coaches are set up to succeed and be the best role models that they are capable of being,” Director of Player & Youth Development Kaycee Wilke said. “The outcomes that we see in our kids [being better leaders, having more confidence, public speaking skills, being a good teammate] are directly correlated to the strength of our coaches and the training they have received. Coaches are the ones who are directly and intentionally developing our kids on and beyond the course.”
Cortez is applying those lessons at home as he assists at the day care. In addition to serving as the de facto handyman — he’s currently building a gazebo and has installed new equipment to increase cleanliness on high-touch surfaces — he has also helped develop a curriculum for the day care using the positive youth development strategies that he’s learned.
“I don’t have to think about it, it’s just habit because I’ve been coaching for so many years,” Cortez said. “With the experience that I have working with kids, I’m always making sure they feel included and involved, and making sure that they know that I know their name and am recognizing their achievements so that they know they’re doing a good job.”
After starting as a participant with SCGA Junior when he was 10, Cortez would volunteer at events and eventually started getting paid as a coach four years ago.
“Alex is the model of our ideal player pathway … someone who grew up with role models and mentors in our program and is now serving in that role himself to all the young kids he coaches and to his siblings,” Wilke said. “Quite simply, I’m proud of Alex and all that he has achieved.”
The curriculums that Cortez helps his mom develop are based on age-appropriate activities, just like the golf and fitness curriculums at SCGA Junior. At the trilingual daycare (English, Spanish, ASL) Cortez recognizes the importance of creating beneficial activities for the kids, but also an environment that allows them to flourish.
“We make sure the kids are having fun and feel safe above everything else,” Cortez said. “They learn more and absorb more that way. That’s a big thing SCGA Junior has taught me. Yeah, we teach golf, but to do that you have to create a safe, fun environment so that kids can absorb what you’re teaching and are comfortable enough to make mistakes and ask for help.”