Using a Coach-Mentor Model to Inform “Kid Talks”

Name: Bridget Mahon, Andrew So

Organization: South Bronx United

Date: August 17, 2018

SEL Competency: Belonging

Driver of Focus: Caring Relationships, Goal-Oriented Experiences

Cohort Demographics: 6th-12th Grade


South Bronx United has designed the role of coach-mentor in which our soccer coaches serve as mentors for the student-athletes on their team. In doing so, coaches aim to support their student-athletes on and off the soccer field to foster growth in academics, athletics, and character. In addition to their weekly coaching responsibilities, coach-mentors attend weekly meetings with SBU program staff members, called “Kid Talks.” During Kid Talks they speak about each student-athlete on their roster, prioritizing their academics, social-emotional well-being, and athletic performance. This new model has helped teams in transition–particularly our 8th grade teams–build a stronger bond with each other and staff, thus leading to an increase in Belonging among that cohort.



Kid Talks occur weekly for about 30 minutes.


Phone conversations/in person if available, with 8 SBU Academy coach-mentors and staff.


Each SBU Academy team has a Coach-mentor and staff coordinator, who facilitate weekly Kid Talks. Staff review each student-athlete individually, with the following focuses:

  1. Program engagement – review weekly attendance at required academic programming and all soccer activities
  2. Social emotional factors – peer dynamics, mood/behavior, family dynamics, etc.
  3. Interventions needed to address any concerns or challenges

Overall team dynamics are also reviewed and program announcements and updates are shared.  

After identifying any needs, staff collaborate to identify intervention strategies and action steps to be taken. These action steps are followed up on weekly in Kid Talks, and between meetings if necessary. SBU uses Salesforce to document and track the outreach and strategies implemented for each student.


Club selection process can be hectic, and middle school students may make decisions depending on what their peers do. These forms and lessons promote self-advocacy, and encourage decision making based on their own interest. Lessons detail specific sentence starters that students can use as tools, and the forms (and conversations that accompany them) provide a structure that students can understand and see as fair.


Based on Network-Wide SEL Survey Analysis, South Bronx United’s 8th Grade cohort was identified by Research Alliance for NYC Schools as one of 18 Bright Spots; meaning they had a greater positive effect on youth SEL compared to sites that serve similar students across the Network. The chart shows the change in the percentage of youth responding positively to Survey questions related to Belonging. Along with that, the efficacy of coach-mentors and Kid Talk is evident in the way we are able to identify and address concerns with students in a timely manner.



  • Be clear about program mission and goals with coach-mentors, along with responsibilities that come with the title.
  • Hold orientations to align coach-mentors with staff and student vision.
  • Use “Kid Talks” to create the time and space for staff collaboration allows us to use the expertise of our various staff members (education, counseling, coaching etc.) to best support our youth and one another.

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Find a printable version of the practice here. If you have questions or thoughts about this practice, comment below.

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Stefano Barros

Stefano believes that one of the best ways to develop young leaders is through community building in youth-centered spaces. This is the driving force behind his focus on strengthening SSN’s reservoir of resources through collaborative learning and research. Stefano joined the team after holding college access and youth leadership development roles in Boston and New York City.

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