Among the hundreds of boys and girls playing sports at the YMCA, you will find a group of boys who live a different life than most kids. They may seem less refined and a little rough, but on the fields and the courts throughout Edmond, they discover they can be on equal ground.
These kids are finding confidence and improving skills they never knew they had thanks to two men who not only coach but care for them off the court, too.
You’ll see Deondre Parker, a.k.a., Coach Deesoo, and Kelvin Scott, a.k.a., Coach Scotty, directing their players from courtside, guiding The Mean Machines into the right place for the right shot while positioning them for success beyond the game.
“I like helping. I like helping other people. I like seeing people doing good,” said Scott.
You’ll find the same two men tucking the boys into their beds at night at The Genesis Project—win or lose—knowing their efforts are making a difference in the bigger game of life.
“I guess I get a moral victory about it in a way, but I’d just say, I just want to be a cool person helping out some cool kids,” Parker said.
Both men coach basketball and flag football at the Y but the real work happens on the Genesis campus. Practice happens twice a week for two hours in the afternoons. It may start with a little music, followed by some layup drills on both sides of the net and it generally ends with hope for a good game.
Somewhere in the middle, are other skills being learned—like persistence, patience, and sticking it out even when you don’t want to.
“You got to make it sound fun. Every practice is different. Some days they just don’t want to practice. We still try to do drills without letting them know they are practicing,” Parker said.
Though the routine and moods of these players may appear as typical as any other player, the challenges are far greater for Genesis boys. Most have never played a sport before arriving on campus. They come to Genesis because of difficulty managing their behaviors and staying disciplined is a minute-by-minute challenge. Getting through a practice or game can be a major milestone for some who have a tough time staying in the classroom or small groups at the Genesis house.
“It’s getting over their fears. Some give up easily. But I tell them, it’s basketball. Stuff happens,” Scott said.
“It’s getting them to understand that everything doesn’t go your own way. Like, you got to roll with the punches and keep going. Like you can get upset but you can’t get upset to stop you from what you’ve got at hand,” Parker said.
The coaches are pleasantly surprised at how well the boys play with others. They like the interaction with other kids and being part of something bigger. They feel accepted and are finding success in a community—a primary goal for all the boys at Genesis. The coaches see their work play out off the court, too. The boys’ behaviors are better.
“I feel like they are looking forward to the game. They will calm themselves down realizing they have something to look forward to this weekend,” Parker said.
The boys are discovering the joys of hard work and winning and their basketball skills are paying off. Parker said they are making tremendous progress in the game.
“From when we first started, we went from zero points per game to 13!” he said.
They’re also playing a winning game of relationship building, a key component to a trauma-informed environment at Genesis. One boy insisted he provide his comments about Coach Scotty.
“He’s a good coach. When we don’t understand, he will tell us, and he will help us. Like, he will help us through stuff,” the boy said.
That same credit also goes to Coach Deesoo who, like Scott, coaches because he thinks it’s what he should do.
“I don’t feel like I owe them this,” Parker said. “When I grew up, this is what I needed. I could have used someone when I was their age.”
Sports is just one part of a comprehensive recreational and life skills program at Genesis that teaches everything from good sportsmanship to good hygiene. Since the boys began playing for the Y, more than 90% gained a first-time experience in sports.
Two coaches in a program at The Genesis Project are creating winners by helping the boys see it for themselves.