Editor’s note: This is part of a series of articles spotlighting area volunteers and their organizations. To nominate a volunteer click here
He loved playing soccer as a youth and enjoys watching his four children do the same. For Drew Corbett, leading the Richmond Hill Soccer Club as its board president for a fourth year and serving as a coach and referee in the past has been a rewarding way to volunteer his time.
“I have the advantage that my schedule is flexible,” said Corbett, a chaplain with Spanish Oaks Hospice in Savannah. “I see what we do here is just an extension of my ministry to people.”
Angela Hendrix, board member of the soccer club, said Corbett is involved in so many aspects of the organization, from setting up flags for a game, to handing out popsicles to players; from setting schedules, securing referees, creating budgets and sorting uniforms, to attending college signings.
“Over the past five years, Richmond Hill Soccer Club has experienced tremendous growth (from 400 to 1,000 players) and seen an enhancement in the quality of recreation and competitive programs that we offer and a lot of that has to do with Drew’s leadership,” Hendrix said. “We have a great team of volunteers and staff but his leadership is what has gotten us to this point.”
She added, “Drew values each player. He understands the importance sports can play in the development of each player as a person - whether that be for one year at the recreation level or a competitive player that plays from age 5 to 18 years old. It is a tremendous impact we can make on the community.”
Corbett acknowledges that responsibility and says it’s all about helping the kids.
“The kids’ needs are paramount and whenever I look over these fields I always think about the struggles they might be going through,” he said. “There are kids who are in homes that don’t get any positive messages. Kids who are considering taking their own lives. Kids who feel they don’t have anyone to look to and they come out here and we have them for an hour or two a week and if we can make a difference in that kid’s life, then that’s why we’re here.”
And although winning and fielding competitive teams and developing soccer skills are important, he says “beneath that we’re providing something important to our community that gives value to children.”
Corbett, 48, grew up in Savannah, played soccer at Country Day School and attended the University of Georgia where he was drawn to the ministry. He and his wife, Virginia, a teacher, have four children in Richmond Hill schools: Luke, Anna Grace, Ethan, and Abigail.
He described the soccer program he leads and said the biggest challenge is what he calls managing “field space.” Although fortunate to have their games played at the expansive DeVaul Henderson Recreation Park, he said as the number of players have grown, “We do our absolute best to provide a team for everyone who wants to play. It’s big for me to say, no we’re not full.”
He said there are three “facets” to the Richmond Hill Soccer Club program:
1. The recreation program has the biggest number of participants. There are no tryouts. Everyone (ages 5-14) is welcome regardless of skill level.
2. The Academy, for 8 to 12 year olds, is for those who want a little more training and concentrates on individual skill development. They must try out and pay a higher club fee.
3. Select is for ages 13-18. The group travels and plays throughout the state on a competitive level.
For more information, go to the club’s website at Richmondhillsc.com.
When speaking to Corbett, his desire to leave a positive impact on children dates back to his college days.
“My doctoral project at seminary was about bully prevention,” he recalled. “Back then there was a statistic that said 160,000 kids skipped school every day because they were tired of being picked on. And that number has stayed with me for years. You think about what if one of the kids who comes out here is that kid. What if he is the 1 in 10 who is going to try to take his life or 1 in 2 who has thought about it?”
He concluded, “We have a great responsibility because people who kids often remember in life are their coaches and their teachers. I’m very passionate about making that difference in their lives.”