Coaching More Than Basketball: 4th Grade Basketball Team Learning On the Court and Off

By Stephen Conway
Wildcat: The Movie Official Facebook Page

Sports, over the years, has served the purpose for many, many things. Sports has been a source of entertainment, an avenue of healing, and an outlet of emotions for spectators and athletes, alike. For a group of fourth grade, inner-city kids in Norfolk, Va., basketball means so much more.

Anthony Clery, an ex-military servicemen, is the head coach of the team called the “Wildcats.” The team is not only opening eyes by displaying hard work, determination, and character building, but also improving their basketball skills, with hopes of winning the National Youth Tournament, in North Carolina this year.

This group of fourth grade boys have come together to form an AAU team, that competes at local and regional tournaments, en route to Nationals. Since forming the team, in addition to performing well on the court, their performance in the classroom has improved as well, proving the point that sports does more than just provide entertainment and pleasure. This team gives them the confidence to believe in themselves, and that, in turn, makes them want to also improve their academic lives.

“These kids are excited about the prospect of reaching nationals and having their story captured,” said Clery.

Clery, who originally signed up to help out a hometown friend, created such a strong bond with the players, that he wanted to take it to the next level. He was so astounded by the kids responsiveness to the coaches, and the program as a whole, that he started to pick up a video camera and record practices, games and life after the boys step off the hardwood.

The project, which is the first of its kind, is especially moving because Clery sees a lot of himself in these kids, running around on what he calls his own “stomping grounds.” He says playing basketball there is ironically what kept himself from straying off the wrong path, and focused on school work and life after basketball.

Now, Clery, with the help of the public, has aspirations of launching this heart-warming story onto a bigger stage — a documentary. Clery, with the help of his fellow coaches, has been able to mentor the kids both in life and in basketball as well as create a sense of brotherhood within the team, which has in turn helped the kids motivated to stay in school and out of trouble. He hopes that once people begin to be aware of the program and cause, they will want to help out in any way they can.

Clery and the “Wildcat” organization are seeking $30,000 to cover personal funds for the production: filming, editing, crew expenses, etc. The campaign, which launched the 14th of this month, is in need of help in order to help not only send these kids to Nationals, but to show the world that basketball does so much more off the court than the general public would think.

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Stephen Conway is a New York Jets writer for Follow him on Twitter, like him on Facebook, or add him on Google.

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