There was only one place Tenaj Gueory felt confident growing up: on the ice. A native of Washington, D.C., Gueory considered Fort Dupont Ice Arena her second home.
“I have skated there since I was about eight,” Gueory said. “My coaches and skating gave me the confidence that I lacked. They gave me the extra push that I needed. Through skating and through my coaches pushing me, I was able to do things I never thought I would.”
As she got older and gained self-confidence, Gueory found her passion for coaching, specifically on the ice.
After graduating from McKinley Technology High School, Gueory knew she wanted to give back to her community. When Up2Us Sports approached her to coach at Fort Dupont, she knew she could not pass up the chance to teach others to skate in her second home.
“When I found out what the program stood for and what they offered, I jumped right in,” she said.
Up2Us Sports provides coaches an opportunity to mentor under-served children through sports. To date the initiative has reached over 300,000 children across the country.
Monumental Sports & Entertainment Foundation, the charitable arm of the Washington Capitals, Wizards, Valor and Mystics and Baltimore Brigade, presented Up2Us Sports a $20,000 grant for the second consecutive season in 2016-17 to continue to give children an opportunity to learn through sports.
“Up2Us Sports allows me to be a positive role model in children’s lives who may not have that role model otherwise,” Gueory said. “It allows me to give them an outlet and give them hope.”
As a part of the organization, Gueory is proud to be able to give these children an opportunity to learn. She knows the kids who step on the ice may need a role model and is more than happy to step up.
Gueory is one of two coaches who serve at Fort Dupont. Prior to starting, the duo underwent training with other Up2Us Sports coaches in Chicago earlier this year.
The training took place over four days during which the instructors learned new coaching techniques and strategies to be as effective as possible. Gueory walked away with plenty of new information, including how to create a safe and inclusive environment for all of the children she coaches.
“I learned a lot on how to prevent bullying and make sure all of my students are heard,” she said.
Gueory coaches children from many different backgrounds, including some children who have experienced trauma at home. The trauma-sensitive coach training she received through Up2Us Sports prepared her to deal with some of these situations and inspired her to do additional research into this area.
“I have to try to traverse that trauma that these children face,” she said. “With some kids, you can tell if they’ve experienced some trauma, but with some you can’t. As you keep coaching, the more they open up to you, the more you learn about what they face at home.”
On the ice, Gueory teaches many different classes during the week. Saturdays, she teaches four basic skating classes within an hour time-span. She teaches them basic skills while also teaching them to deal with the challenges they face in life.
Gueory describes herself as a passionate coach. She tries to approach every new skater not as a student, but as a younger sibling.
“I have to show them not to give up and to keep going,” she said. “I was once in their shoes. I know it’s hard and I know it’s challenging, but we can get past it.”
Gueory knows results do not come easy, but it is all worth it when a skater is eager to learn.
“I have seen children who come in so eager to learn,” she said. “They sometimes get a couple levels ahead of the class they are in and that’s rewarding to me.”
Gueory said the MSE Foundation grant has a large impact in reaching more children by providing an opportunity for Up2Us Sports to hire more coaches. “We can continue to help these children and make a real positive impact on the community,” said Gueory. “If we did not have that grant, we could not be making the impact that we are making.”