Parimatch Foundation continues to tell the inspiring stories of the Foundation's programs' coaches, who, despite the military aggression on the territory of Ukraine, do their job and involve children in sports. Today, the hero of the article is Roman Marchenko, coach, and director of the «Sports for All» center. He told how the sports center «Sports for All» turned into a shelter for the families of child athletes from Kyiv and shared his experience on how to help children believe in the future.
Roman Marchenko is the director of the Podilskyi District Center for Physical Health of the Population «Sports for All» in Kyiv. Before the war, the center based on Youth Sports school worked with 109 students of the «Sports Mentor» program, aimed at providing equal opportunities to children, regardless of their social status, to develop self-confidence as well as physical and social skills through sports.
The children knew where they could be safe
Roman Marchenko remembers the first day of the war with confidence in his voice.
— A few days before the beginning of the invasion, I felt that something might happen. So I emphasized to the children that in case of danger, everyone can hide in our center because it has a semi-basement. Therefore, in the morning on the day of the military invasion, the families of our students were already waiting for me at the door of the center. Then the families of our employees and coaches joined them. In total, our center became a shelter for 32 people. The youngest one who stayed with us was only 9 months old.
The center is located on Vynogradar. It is not far from Moschun and Gorenka villages, where hostilities took place. Roman says that it was dangerous to stay in that district. But some families lived there, supporting each other. The last families left the shelter on April 7, and some became so close that they moved to other regions together.
I saw smiles on the children’s faces at the fourth training session only
Roman says that before the war, the training sessions were conducted in the Youth sports school. 15 participants of the Parimatch Foundation’s «Sports Mentor» program trained at the school. Now the children are returning to training and about 8-9 participants attend training regularly.
The center did not conduct online training, but as soon as it became possible to resume offline training they started to do them. Roman shares that he saw the children who stayed in Kyiv and spend their free time aimlessly. This is what prompted him to resume training. At first, 4 boys visited them, but then more and more children came back to train. Currently, 40 children go in for sport in the sports center.
– It was the fourth practice when did I notice the first smiles on the children’s faces. They were so deep inside themselves because everyone experienced a situation like this for the first time, – Roman says.
– Our district suffered significant destruction. Some of our athletes lost their homes because they hit an enemy missile, and some children have parents serving in the Armed forces. Our goal is not only to train children but also to bring them out of depression.
Roman notes he managed to achieve this goal. Children feel happy as they have the opportunity not only to train but also to participate in competitions. Young athletes have already played a match in the children’s «Australian Cup» in Cherkasy. The «Sports Mentor» program participants took part in the game.
The most important thing is to support each other and believe in the future
Roman, a historian by training, says that he felt that a military invasion was, unfortunately, just a matter of time. From the first day, the feeling of responsibility as a manager for his students and their families replaced the feeling of fear and stress. But as a coach, he emphasizes that physical activity is a must, especially in the current conditions.
— Playing sports improves health and mood, it is always the right decision. The main contribution to the joint victory, that children can make, is to be healthy, strong, and resilient, – sums up Roman Marchenko.
The main advice for parents is to know that life goes on and that the future will be inevitable. It is necessary to talk with children a lot, support each other, make joint plans, and involve them in everyday life. Well, of course, do simply warm up, it will never hurt!