Coaching Training - Youth lead the way

Unleashing the power of the Belizean youth.

We believe strongly in the youth of Belize. While starting our camp programs, we found that youth did not have an avenue to serve as leaders for their community. And so what started with one young man named Kristian in 2006 has now grown into a formal youth coaching program where high school and junior college students receive community service hours from their principals for serving as coaches and mentors for our camps. Our relationship-based approach has brought about these opportunities as we have formed great friendships with the principals throughout Northern Belize.

In Summer 2009 we held our first exclusive youth coaching workshop before our four weeks of camp. We invited area youth from 3 villages to serve as coaches for their community. Led by Belizean coordinator Jesus Ek and four other veteran Belizean volunteers, the workshop empowered a new group of youth to serve children as coaches and mentors for our camps. Here are three profiles of youth who have stepped into leadership to make a difference:


Hilma Martinez was the only girl to show up at our training workshop in Summer 2009. She revealed a fear and anxiety about being the only girl. Throughout the workshop, she remained relatively quiet yet eager to learn how to coach. Once camps started, however, she jumped at the opportunities to lead the younger girls in her village. The feelings were mutual as the girls of her village were eager to learn from her and, frankly, just spend time with such an amazing 17 year old.

Before teaming up with Sports Servants, Hilma had never considered attending high school. Like many girls, Hilma is a victim of a portion of the culture believing that a woman's education is unimportant. But with the encouragement of Belizean and American volunteers at camp, she decided to begin furthering her education. Using our network of relationships and support, Sports Servants were able to enroll Hilma for the Fall 2009 semester. And with the girls from camp and her two younger sisters looking on, we believe the enrichment of her mind, body, and spirit from a high school experience will both inspire Hilma to want more and open the door for other girls to follow.


Kristian Manzanilla is as unique as they come. The second son to a military father, Kristian knows the raw realities of growing up in a harsh family where love was seldom a priority. Despite the odds being against him, he excelled in art, music, and academics at school, not to mention he was the best athlete in all of their sporting activities. He had trouble with his behavior because of his family background, but seeing something special in him, we invited Kristian to serve as our first youth coach in Summer 2006. What we found was a gentle and caring soul who shined before the children.

There are so many images of Kristian from the past few years. He is now a proud member of the Belize Army where, at 22 years old, he commands a unit of 40 men.Though his professional success is gratifying, it is Kristian's summer moments with the children in our camps that will stay close to us. Our most vivid memories include watching Kristian pick up a girl who injured her arm during camp and carrying her 2 miles to the local hospital. He is quick to break up fights in the tough village of Calcutta; he sits the boys down and shares about his past experience with fighting and how he hopes their lives will be different from the way he grew up. He has preached the story of David to children at our camps. But most of all, we remember him hoisting up a small child on Picture Day in Summer 2006. This tough 18 year old was holding a 5 year old on his shoulders. With right hand on his back and the other pointing towards the camera, the explosive expression of joy from the young child told us the entire story about the impact Kristian was having on the children.

As a final note, Kristian has always been quick to tell us the importance of Sports Servants in his life. He bestows gratefulness and honor upon every aspect of Sports Servants, from our older coaches who have been father figures to the opportunities to serve kids. His actions speak even louder as he takes his vacation time from the army to be a coach at our camps. Most recently in Summer 2009, he spent his entire day before setting out for a 60-day jungle warfare training expedition to help serve as a mentor coach at our workshop for new youth leaders wanting to be trained as coaches for camp.


Nardo Che is one of the most impressive young men we have met in Belize. The oldest of seven children in his family, he is not only the first in his family to graduate high school, but he was valedictorian of his senior class and recently received his Bachelor’s Degree from the University of Belize in May 2009. In addition to his academic achievement, Nardo is considered the best soccer player in his village and is an active leader in his youth group. While he is an obvious candidate to be a great leader for our camps, Nardo was the one who sought us out and asked if he could join us to serve his community.

Nardo's faith, his family, and his desire to serve others are what make him unique. His dream is to one day be chairman of his village and own a business, but his legacy has already started in the number of children he has impacted through our camps. After his first summer helping us, Nardo shared, “I want to thank you all for giving me the opportunity to be a leader. It is an amazing feeling to have the younger children looking up to you. And I appreciate that chance.” Over the past few years Nardo tells us of the many times he runs into campers in his village, in town, or riding the bus on his way home. They all light up and give him a high-five.

With Nardo, Kristian, and Hilma, we realize the significance of inviting youth into leadership. Not only does it provide a medium for them to serve their community, but the children trust and respect them more than any other volunteers. We realize it is because they see themselves in the youth. They see what they could be. And so more than anyone else, the children listen intently to every word they say. In turn, we are grateful for these youth who step forward to serve. They are blazing a new trail of youth leadership, keeping children on the right path, and inspiring the next generation to become like them.