Thursday, August 26, 2010


This weekend, L.E.A.D. will be finalizing applications and selecting new families into our Fall Legacy League program.  The Legacy League is America's 1st fall instructional play league that focuses specifically on inner city middle and high school talent.

Being accepted in this program makes dreams become reality.  The reality of now being in a program that provides access to college through academics and baseball.

L.E.A.D. Ambassador Mendez Elder who is a two year member once told me that it is his dream to attend GA Tech as a student athlete.  "If I can't go to Tech, I don't want to go to college!" Mendez is currently a junior at Grady High School (Atlanta Public Schools) and GT’s Head Baseball Coach Danny Hall knows Mendez on a first name basis. 

L.E.A.D. Ambassador Desmond Stegall is a one year member and a senior at Benjamin Mays High School (APS).  He also wants to attend GA Tech as a student athlete.  This weekend, he attended a prospect clinic held by GA Tech and graded high on their baseball evaluation.  He told me after the clinic that "this is where I belong Coach." He made that statement because L.E.A.D. trained him professionally and exposed him to competition against hundreds of the top high school players in the nation as well as some of the nations top travel baseball teams. 

L.E.A.D. Ambassador Brandon Brinkley is currently a freshman at Selma University and a recent graduate of Booker T. Washington High School (APS).  Let's just say that baseball hasn't been  the most popular sport at the school.  Rumor speaks to Dr. Martin Luther King being a member of the baseball before graduating and attending Morehouse College.  There hasn't been a scholarship baseball player come from Washington High School in over 15 years.  Brandon has cut a trail for several young men at the school to follow.  He once told me that "I will do anything to play in college.  I just want a chance!"

L.E.A.D. is charged with helping young men who want the most out of life achieve their dreams: attending and excelling in college; becoming entrepreneurs, attorneys and physicians; being civic minded and leaders in their communities.

L.E.A.D. is bigger than baseball and the support of communities in this state and across the country helps us to make dreams a reality.  We need help from you so that we can help more families.  Can you help us make dreams come true?

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

The 21st Century Rec Center

When I was a child, the neighborhood rec center served a different type of youth. Today it serves youth that are angered by the lack of love provided by a stable home environment.  It serves youth that are hungry to learn more and that want to live a better life than they currently live.  They are also hungry from a lack of food at home.  Back in my day, just about anything would hold our attention.  I remember playing baseball with tennis balls and a stick.  We played four square, kickball and raced each other all day long.  We would get dropped off at sun up and get picked up at sun down.  We were safe and respected authority.  We had all the energy in the world and fueled our body with Kool-Aid and chips.  Today’s youth need to learn skills that will allow them to earn income now in an effort to survive in the world.  Going to college opens up a world of career opportunities and also gives youth and opportunity to live the American Dream but today, they are faced with not much food in the house and a lack of adult supervision.

As a child, I frequented Adams Park and Collier Park.  These centers produced several leaders of Atlanta, including Mayor Kasim Reed, City Council President Caesar Mitchell and City Councilman Kwanza Hall.  For me as a child, the rec center was simply a place of recreation.  An outlet to get out the house and have fun.  Today, the rec center has to be a place of development for youth.  Staff members have to be the mother and father figure along with being tutors. 

The rec centers worked before and can work again but what type of child are the centers serving now?  Youth today have to over achieve.  You can know longer get a good paying job with a GED.  A college degree at times can’t you a job these days.  Today’s youth need to know what career opportunities exist and how to get them.  Dreaming of success occurs when your eyes are closed but when your eyes open, reality sets in.  The reality is that some of the youth in the inner city aren’t aspiring to do more than what they see in their community which is suffering due to a decline in the country’s economy.  It is time to introduce them to politics and provide a mentor that will be there every step of the way.  It is time to introduce them to programs like L.E.A.D. that takes their interest in a sport like baseball and show them how they can access college with the possibilities of becoming a General Manager for the Atlanta Braves or the Braves attorney.  The youth that we serve today needs more than words of encouragement.  They demand a road map for success.  They demand year round programs that provide year round access to an environment of hope.

A lot has changed since I was a child.  We ran to the rec center.  The rec centers today aren’t equipped to handle these young men but that L.E.A.D. is.  Today’s rec centers definitely need to be upgraded with technology because today’s teen thrives off of it.  Technology provides information that will empower youth.  When I was a kid, the big thing was staying in touch with friends that you met at a summer camp from the rec center with pen pal letters.  Obviously those days are over and will never return.

L.E.A.D. is a program based at Perkerson Park and is charged with meeting middle and high school males where they are.  Our goal is to Launch educational opportunities, Expose them to service.  Advise them and their parents on how to achieve their goals and Direct them with the legacy of current leaders such as Mayor Kasim Reed and past legends such as Benjamin E. Mays.

On August 10, 2010, Mayor Reed provided hope to inner city Atlanta youth by announcing at a press conference that 6 Rec Centers in Atlanta are now open and ready to serve.  I was fortunate to be in attendance for the press conference and hope sounded really loud from the cheers of young kids that were there as well.  Hope is no longer a dream.  Hope is now a reality; the centers our youth so desperately need are opening. L.E.A.D. is ready to join Mayor Reed's initiative and serve with programming.

Monday, August 9, 2010

How did you serve today?

The principal of Grove Park Elementary School (Atlanta Public School) called me three a few weeks ago needing the services of my L.E.A.D. Ambassadors. It felt so good to get that call knowing that she knew when she needed help, my young men and I would be there.

Today we prepared the school for the return of young students. Several desk were moved from one room to another along with books. Whatever needed to be done, we made it happen.

The evening news showcased young men between the ages of 12-18 being involved in violent crimes; but for over 5 hours, the L.E.A.D. Ambassadors were serving. Trying to improve the city. Preparing an A.P.S. School for another promising school year.

I love having people depend on me. The opportunity to serve others is as important to me as living.

L.E.A.D. couldn't stop all crime throughout Atlanta today but we did do our part to serve Atlanta.our city.

How do I say thank you?

It took a lot of coaching to create the person that I am today. My playing days are over but I am prepared to coach and develop other young men the way that I was developed. I know the methodology and I know it works.

I started playing baseball at the Cascade Youth Organization and Coach Gus Burns was my first coach. He was an older gentleman whose gray hair was a sign of wisdom. He taught me patience. It took a lot to teach me how to finally make contact with the ball. Coach Emmett Johnson was Coach Burns’ assistant. He had a beautiful family and was an educator. He always stressed academic excellence. No grades, no baseball. I kept the same coaches and played on the same youth Braves team with the same players until I was 11 years old. We became a family.

My family saved lots of money and off to Fairburn, GA we went. Then I had to find the baseball fields. Coach Zack Davis was my coach from age 11 to 13. He taught me how to compete. We worked harder than everyone at the Old National Athletic Association. We were expected to win.

At age 14, I was still at ONAA but now playing for the elite Pirates. We had so much talent but unfortunately a lot of egos and bad attitudes. Coach James Holiday was very strict and introduced me to tough love. He wanted nothing but the best from us. Lack of effort and disrespect didn't go unnoticed at all!

I finally got to high school. Westlake baby! We couldn't seem to buy a win until Coach Dave Whitfield taught us how to love and respect the game. Our love was shown every game as we never stepped on the field with dirty cleats. That was a curse and we always came to school on game days with our uniform on a hanger. Pride baby!

When I was GA State Baseball bound, I was literally thinking, “I'm on top of the world.” I was drafted by the Cubs and was playing at a Division 1 school, thinking the world owed me. Above all, I finally had freedom. Coach Mike Hurst taught me that freedom has consequences. I made some bad choices but I learned. Although the hard way, I'm better now for it.

After GSU, I transferred to Dekalb Junior College. "Courteney, you are going to have to play hard here at Dekalb. No excuses!" Those were Coach Tom Cantrell’s the first words to me. He taught me how to play with passion. “If you are going to play the game, play it right and play it hard!”

Next stop was Chicago Cubs, baby! The dream became reality. I played for and was coached by so many legends. The coach that stood out the most to me was Tom Gamboa. He really believed in me and taught me how to believe in others. I always felt like an all-star around him.

L.E.A.D. will continue to develop young men on and off the baseball field under my leadership. That leadership didn't come from a classroom or a coaching clinic. Life has put me with some great men. I say thank you by paying it forward!

X's and O's

When writing love letters, X's and O's represents hugs and kisses. They are symbols of love. To be an effective coach, you must love your players. You must love them with action and positive words. You must love them with patience and understanding. Those same X's and O's represents strategy in baseball and as we all know, teaching baseball isn't easy. If we coach our players with love, they will always win.

Coaching youth sports has become loosely defined over the years to mean an adult taking charge of a team. The good coaches win all the games and the bad coaches can't seem to get a break.

With L.E.A.D., coaching occurs on and off the field. It is year-round commitment for our year-round program.

Young men will be young men. Before they can become men, they have to learn the importance of being punctual. They have to really understand what it means to respect others. They have to learn how to dress for success and understand etiquettes. Most of these lessons will be learned through mistakes made. As a child, I was taught right from wrong and learned from my own mistakes but it wasn't until I was older that I was coached on how to be a responsible man. I still need constant coaching.

Coaching requires patience, passion, and an understanding of people and their daily struggles. For me to make an impact on a young man, I just need him to be willing to learn from his mistakes. Like life, baseball is full of ups and downs and requires usable skills to compete. As the founder of L.E.A.D. and as a coach, I must also realize that a lot of mistakes that my Ambassadors make are due to mistakes that I'm making in turns of not holding them accountable.

Coaching is about meeting young men where they are and using a holistic approach to improving him as a superior citizen and superior athlete. This is what the L.E.A.D. coaches do to best help the young men that we serve.