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Everyday Heroes: Volunteer 'represents what is still good about youth sports'

Leon Arens

Volunteer, coach
Leon Arens Volunteer, coach

Leon Arens of Cedar Rapids is nominated as an Everyday Hero for his volunteer efforts in youth coaching and other activities, and for inspiring his players to do their best. He and others are being featured in this occasional series honoring Everyday Heroes, presented by Fairfax State Savings Bank.

New parents receive a lot of advice, solicited and not, but one piece stayed with Leon Arens: Coach his children’s’ sports teams. Doing this, he was told, would allow him to spend more time with his children, get to know their friends, and get to know the parents of his children’s friends.

That was the beginning of Coach Leon, as he’s known to the numerous young athletes he’s coached in soccer, basketball and softball through the YMCA.

Arens admits he didn’t know much about soccer when his oldest daughter started playing — he played golf and wrestled in high school — but he was assured his lack of knowledge wouldn’t deter his athletes.

“I was told that if I got them to kick the ball in the right direction, I was doing well,” Arens, an IT application developer at Mercy Medical Center, says.

Today, it’s his second-favorite sport, just barely behind baseball.

As a coach, Arens wants his athletes to learn how to play the sport he’s coaching, but also to have fun while doing so. If you give him your best, he’ll be proud — just like those who know him are proud of him.

“Leon Arens represents what is still good about youth sports and coaching youth sports,” Lisa Stephenson wrote in her Everyday Heroes nomination. “He is a fiercely competitive and highly knowledgeable teacher of the sport but, more importantly, he is passionate about developing a young athlete’s self-esteem and confidence.”

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As his daughters’ interests varied, so did Arens’ involvement, adding club softball and volunteering for the Xavier High School band program to the mix. He’s known as everyone’s biggest cheerleader, a teacher of fundamentals, a proponent of fun, and even “Team Mom” because of the backpack he brings to every game and practice that has everything his athletes need, from snacks and water to first aid supplies and insect repellent. In Harry Potter terms, Arens says, it’s the Room of Requirement in backpack form.

“I’ve been really, really, really lucky to coach with great people,” Arens says. “I wouldn’t be where I am today without them.”

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