by MICHAELA GAFFKE
Justin Olson has been involved with sports most of his life, and brought that love to the Winona YMCA by refereeing youth basketball. He got involved with the YMCA in his hometown of Menomonee Falls, Wis., by going to camp, playing sports, and job shadowing. Olson moved to Winona for school, and decided to continue that experience at the Winona YMCA.
Olson, who is 21, began to work at the YMCA in 2014, when he was a first-year student at Winona State University.
The YMCA began to ask him to participate in more and more programs, and now he is one of the lead staff who help plan and run programs. Olson does summer counseling; coaches tackle football, a traveling basketball team; and referees and supervises developmental league games and practices. He also does afterschool care and preschool sports.
As a kid Olson said he had great coaches who inspired him to stay in sports, and bad coaches that turned him away. He strives to be that positive coach for kids, to keep them involved with sports.
“I wanted to give that positive experience of the YMCA to other kids,” Olson said.
Even outside the YMCA, he loves seeing the kids.
“They’ll come up and say something to me. It is always nice when I’m either going for a bike ride or just walking around the lakes and I run into a kid and they will run up to me and give me a hug and say ‘hi,’” Olson said.
He is an exercise science major with a minor in coaching at Winona State, and his dream job is to be an athletic director or youth sports director. Olson wishes to use his major and integrate it into his coaching, since coaching is his favorite thing to do.
“You’re dealing with more than just sports because they will tell you the personal stuff going on in their lives, such as something fun they did over the weekend and talk to you about what you do,” Olson said. “You get more of that personal connection rather than just coaching them to play the sport, you get to teach them life lessons.”