Meet Izzy McCann, a 16-year-old volunteer from our Washington, DC program. Izzy started volunteering when she was 14 years old and has enjoyed her time on court ever since.
“I really wanted them to have fun but fun looks a lot different for each child so learning what that was, was very important,” she explained. “Understanding how to interact with them so I could learn what having fun was like for them and what it looked like was key.”
A competitive tennis player, she looked for opportunities to give back to the sport she loves so much. “Tennis has been a sport that has been really important to me, so I wanted to find a way to give back and that’s how I started with ACEing Autism.”
Even though she was nervous at the beginning for being one of the youngest volunteers, “my nerves went away as the first clinic went on,” she laughed. “It was good to be paired with kids my own age so I could relate to them better.”
As she got more familiar with autism and the program, she was excited to learn a lot of things along the way. “At first, I thought it was much more about teaching tennis but there is so much more than that. For instance we work on socialization, motor skills, hand-eye coordination, so now I focus more on that,” she continued. “Lynn and Rachel were great; we would talk after each session and get feedback so we could learn more about the best way to teach them.”
But learning how to teach the athletes and how to adapt was far from being the only thing she discovered about herself. “This experience has broadened my perspective by noticing how the parents react for instance,” she recalls. “At the beginning, I was more on the shy side, but as I continue with the program, I feel more confident and I try to take a leadership role. Another thing I’ve learned is to go more with the flow and bringing that enthusiasm has helped me with other aspects of my life.”
Izzy expands that she’s always been hard on herself, but she’s been able to learn to not take it as seriously as she used to. “I now make a point to have fun and not just in tennis but in school too. I can also see that my confidence has grown, for instance I used to not speak out as much in class and now, even though it’s still a work in progress, I don’t feel like that anymore.”
And last but not least, she has learned leadership skills she wasn’t expecting to have. “As I’ve learned how to lead more, I’ve realized the value of what I say, and the feeling of accomplishment I get after each clinic, is amazing,” she confessed. “Being able to be goofy, silly, and do whatever it takes to get these kids to have fun and not caring as much about what other people say, gave me that confidence to want to take on more responsibilities and realize that I love helping other people too.”
Thank you Izzy for your dedication and commitment to ACEing Autism and our families. We can’t wait to see what’s in store for you this year!