With an official start time this fall, Mrs. Huistra joined the athletic department as Allendale Middle School Athletic Coordinator — a position created to help bridge the gap between athletics at the middle school and those at the high school.
With a district goal of creating a more cohesive program from 7th – 12th grades, Maria and high school athletic director Scott Daling work together to deliver a more seamless experience for young athletes and their parents alike. Serving as point person for 7th and 8th grades offers additional support to coaches while streamlining paperwork, meetings and other details for families.
But aside from all this, Mrs. Huistra brings with her new ways to challenge students involved in Falcon sports. In 2013, Maria founded “Giving Back,” a program designed to get AMS athletes involved in their community. Partnering with organizations like LOVE, inc., athletes have the opportunity to “pay it forward” by sorting donations, hanging clothing, pricing items to sell and even shoveling their sidewalk,
“Kids need to be appreciated beyond things they do in school or on the field or court. They need to be known as more than a jock or musician or someone who attains things. Serving their community is one way to earn that appreciation.”
Maria said providing ways for athletes to get involved in middle school is particularly critical, as so many kids (whether they know it or not) could be playing team sports for the last time.
“We don’t like to think about it, but the fact is that we roster two boys basketball teams in 8th grade, but 9th grade has only one. So the reality is that 24 kids leave middle school wanting to play ball, and only 13-14 will make the team as freshmen. Despite making that sad adjustment, if they can bring positive memories with them to high school, that’s an important piece for them as they grow.”
Mrs. Huistra has helped make scores of memories in her time as an involved parent and community member prior to joining the staff. Along with another parent, Maria conceptualized Fitness Frenzy and instituted the middle school athletic boosters (of which she still serves as president). She served as volunteer coordinator for the elementary PTO and worked on PE for Life, which is a program structured to help students at risk.
But of all she’s accomplished and continues to do, Mrs. Huistra says it doesn’t compare to the response she gets in the hallways:
“When someone passes me in the hall and says, “Hey — I got my grade up and I can play!”…I know I’m making a difference.”