UBC coach Jesse Symons wins MLS Community MVP award

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On Tuesday, Symons was announced as one of Major League Soccer’s 26 Community MVPs, an award presented to those who go above and beyond to serve their communities, after being nominated by the Vancouver Whitecaps.

Symons and Co. teach classes for kids from kindergarten to Grade 9, doing fundamental movement skills such as balance, running and jumping, along with soccer skills like dribbling or other technical activities. He’s usually accompanied by three of his players, two of whom demonstrate the drill while the other assists, the entire process narrated by Symons.

Jesse Symons, right, and his UBC Thunderbirds team at a 2019 Hope and Health camp.

One of the communities the program has reached was Penticton, after the Outma Sqilxw Cultural School reached out to participate for the first time. The pilot program has been a huge success, with Symons recounting the story of one girl who previously wouldn’t set foot in the gym, but had found a new-found level of comfort with the Zoom sessions.

“The teachers are just unbelievably amazed that there’s actual engagement,” he said. “It’s quite inspirational actually to see what’s possible. There’s a lot of work that goes into setting up the gym classes, the flow of the session, but then seeing (the kids) move and react to the players on the screen is pretty cool.

“I don’t know if there’s more comfort with that maybe now in this generation. It’s sort of opened a new world. This new generation, there’s a lot of screen time, there’s a lot of interaction with iPads and iPhones and then smartphones … I don’t know if it’s a safety thing where it’s a little easier because they’re not looking at each other, they’re looking at a screen (instead).”

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