Over the course of the next few months, I will be covering a fourth-grade AAU team down in Virginia called the Wildcats. Coached by a former serviceman, Anthony Clary, the team is comprised of inner-city fourth graders who learn much more than skills on the basketball court. Through hard work, dedication and motivation, these fourth-graders are improving their behavior in schools, at home, as well as obtaining a sense of responsibility.
With your help, the coaching staff aspires to create a documentary of the story to show that hard work and determination do pay off.
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Coach Clary has his kids preparing for the MIT tournament in Maryland, which will showcase the best team on the east coast at the National Tournament. The tune-up tournaments against neighboring teams, according to Clary, will be a great test to see how the team stacks up against other competition.
“I am anxious to see how they respond to adversity when things don’t go their way,” said Clary. “We are also focusing on integrating the new players and some new system ‘quirks’ before we get into action.”
Clary says that the kids are extremely excited about the thought of going to nationals, but they mainly are excited about whichever tournament is in front of them. They just want to play basketball, so whether that be in this weekend’s tournament or the MIT tournament in a few weeks time, they can’t wait to hit the hardwood.
One of the best aspects of the team has been the way that the kids have responded to structure. Clary notes that off the court, the coaching staff has noticed lots of changes ranging from school, attitude and acceptance of responsibility.
“I think a lot of it is attributed to the fact that we keep a strong emphasis on being accountable for your actions,” says Clary. “This resonates with them because they know if they don’t perform in school, then they can’t practice and they won’t be able to play in the games.”
Above all, Clary mainly wants to teach the kids to become better people. He has seen so much growth in the kids up until now, and he wants to continue their improvement throughout the next few years into their teen years. In turn, Clary finds that he has benefited from all of it, and says that it has given him a sense of purpose.
“The biggest thing I’ve learned is that patience with a group of young and impressionable minds is key to reaching them,” says Clary, an ex-military man.
Clary is most proud of the fact that he has been able to connect with people and have more compassion for others who may not have it as good. Clary says that many parents who the coaching staff deals with never would have thought that it would be possible for their child to be on a travel AAU team, because no one had ever showed interest or concern in their child.
“I really want people to know that their support of this project will not only shed light on the daily struggle of my boys, but hopefully this motivates others to take interest in the lives of our youth,” says Clary.
“The amount of time and energy we spend with these boys will be something that they take with them for the rest of their life. The fact that most of the moms say they appreciate what we do as mentors and how they have noticed the change in their child is what its all about at the end of the day.”
While the team’s dream is to make it to Nationals and win, Clary says its much more than that. “It’s much more than bouncing a ball or making a pass … when a child has a chance at something so special with a group of friends, it is priceless.”
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