John Oakley first got involved with the Ithaca Youth Bureau 32 years ago when his five-year-old son played soccer. John recalls watching him run around, kicking the ball, and interacting with his teammates. Five years later, when John’s daughter wanted to play he decided to coach her team and continued to do so even after she stopped playing. Watching his children play and coaching his daughter’s soccer and Desi Jacobs softball team for six years was a joy for him because he loves seeing the players’ enjoyment and how much they improve over the season. Eventually, John was asked to be the league director for fall soccer and has been doing so with great pleasure for the last 18 years.
John’s experience with coaching and being a league director with the IYB inspired him to become a teacher because he wanted to help young people discover the joys of learning and playing. Although his time commitment to the YB may be small, he says volunteering and working with the soccer players, coaches, and referees each season is one of the things that makes him feel the most worthwhile.
A favorite coaching memory for John was when one of his players, who had previously enjoyed sitting out during soccer games, told him she wanted to run all game long. It was heartwarming for him to see how much joy she found in being active and playing with her teammates. It reminded him that letting a child realize the absolute joy of being active is what rec soccer is all about.
Overall, John feels people should know that the Ithaca Youth Bureau is one of the few places committed to supporting young people as they explore how to play with friends and strangers.