By Coshandra Dillard
Inside the gym at First Christian Church on a Wednesday night, young boys perfected their lay-up and dribbling skills while some fathers looked on.
It was the first of many practices for SRW Knights‘ basketball season, which lasts through August. The little ballers are part of a program that not only helps to enrich children’s basketball skills but also aims to instill the virtues of hard work, good character and leadership.
Jonathon Dews enrolled his two sons, Jonathon and Jayden, into the program to help them become better players, as well as expose them to a well-rounded social experience.
“They’re learning more skills and elevating their game,” Dews said. ” They offer more than what other coaches were doing.”
President and founder Ricky Williams created the organization four years ago to merge two of his passions: mentorship and basketball.
“I always liked basketball and I wanted to incorporate my love for coaching,” Williams said.
The team’s mascot was chosen for its association with strength and courage. Williams named the group after his mother, Sheronda Renee Williams, who passed away in 2012 and inspired him to continue her work as a teacher and mentor.
Williams and his coaches have 39 children ages 9 to 17 in the basketball organization. An additional 32 participate in a mentorship program, with monthly sessions at Rose Heights Church or Greater St. Mary Baptist Church. The young men fellowship and talk about their concerns in an open discussion.
This is important, Williams said, as the majority of players come from single-parent homes. Williams said coaches show up to their players’ events outside of the Knights.
“We tell them we have their backs,” he said. “We tell them, ‘Don’t let your situation determine what you’re going to do in life.’ We’re trying to show that we’re in their corner.”
Williams hopes the support and encouragement through a structured program that teaches discipline helps players when facing challenges.
“Life offers challenges in the world we live in,” he said. “Nobody’s going to give them anything. That’s how we start with basketball. You have to work hard for what you want.”
The Knights are members of the Amateur Athletic Union and will travel to several cities throughout the season, including Dallas, Houston and Las Vegas.
“We take them everywhere we can,” Williams said.
Parents pay fees and dues for their child’s participation in SRW Knights, but scholarships and sponsorships are available for those who need assistance.
The organization has ordered priorities for the boys: God first, family second, school third, and then the Knights.
“I hope they truly enjoy the time they had with this program and I hope they give back to somebody else,” Williams said. “We take our boys and our program very seriously. We make sure that they leave better than when they came–in basketball and in their life.”