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Sara Holland

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Coaches for Kids

Two People to Know for Sports, Strategy, and Riding a Bike

Sometimes it feels like you can’t toss a Nerf football in Westport without hitting an advertisement for a summer camp or youth athletics league for the next aspiring Giannis Antetokounmpo or Megan Rapinoe.

That’s because Westport parents know that giving a child a chance to explore sports develops a lot more than just a killer jumpshot or the perfect breaststroke. 

“The kids who are thriving and succeeding are those who have a love of moving their bodies,” says Sara Holland, owner of Sara Holland Sports. “When kids learn control over their own bodies their confidence begins to soar across the board.”

Sara is one of a pack of top athletes sharing their love of the game – be it lacrosse, Capture the Flag, or chess – with children all over town. 

Originally from Oklahoma, the former gymnast/dancer has called Westport home for several years. A former Division I softball recruit for the University of Kansas, she went on to earn a master’s in education at the University of Virginia, polishing the psychology and child development know-how she uses with her young charges today.

As a mother of three, she’s learned that athletics give children a safe place to learn how to win, how to lose, and how to practice hard and get better.

“Eventually, you find something you love and you begin to excel at that,” she says. 

Dan Starbuck Pelletier learned a similar lesson as a youth. Growing up in Wilton, he moved to Kentucky, honing his soccer skills along the way. Pelletier said he realized his build and skill set weren’t going to help much in basketball or football. But soccer?

“With soccer, my body fit,” he says. “Still, I’m not a natural. If I wanted to be good at things I had to stick with it. I would be in practice for hours four days a week. I wanted to perform at a higher level, so I worked harder.

“You need something you have to prepare for. For me, it was soccer.”

Pelletier, whose Team DIG USA (short for Determination, Integrity, Growth) now employs about 25 coaches for private and group lessons and camps all over the region, said there’s a positive offshoot to all the hard work. Youth who are busy practicing, eating right and getting enough sleep before games are less likely to get involved in drugs and alcohol.

“I would be dead tired after the games!” he says of his grueling athletic schedule at the University of Montevallo in Alabama. “I didn’t have the energy to party too much!”

Each coach has branched out in new arenas. Holland has a growing business teaching children to safely ride their bikes. While it might seem like a parent’s job, she said learning to ride from an instructor can be less stressful and quicker. 

“Some kids are highly fearful. My job is to break down that fear. And sometimes people in general respond better to others,” she says. “It’s kind of like hiring people to teach our kids to ski. Can I teach my kids to ski? Yes. Did I? No.”

Pelletier added chess, one of his all-time passions, to his list of coaching and teaching options. The game works hand-in-hand with sports, honing a sense of strategy and the ability to read the field or the board. 

It also helps kids learn respect for opponents and a little humility during matches with others who may be more advanced. “I prep my athletes to know that the next shark is coming and he’s bigger than the last one,” he says. 

Both coaches also give back to their communities. Pelletier is nurturing a popular girls soccer league in Bridgeport, where DIG outfits and trains about 45 middle-school girls for recreation league play. The two-hour, twice weekly practices and games and uniforms from team shirts to new cleats are all free to players, thanks to grant money from the city through pandemic funding, he says. “My goal is to produce college scholarships for these girls,” he says. “And they know it.”

When not running themed week-long sports camps, Holland gives countless hours and supplies through the kids Fun Run sponsored by the Westport Young Woman’s League that attracts hundreds of participants each year.

“I can’t say enough about this town,” she says of Westport. “It is so appealing to be here. This is a community that loves to see kids thrive.” 

For all the particulars on Sara and Dan's camps and classes, visit SarahHollandSports.com and TeamDIGUSA.com.

  • Sara Holland makes bike riding easy.
  • Sara Holland
  • Sara Holland
  • Dan as chess coach.
  • Dan teaching chess
  • Dan Starbuck Pelletier and kids!
  • Nerf Capture the Flag.