Basketball coaches are forever reminding their players to communicate during the game. But when high school basketball coach Dwight Myvett spends times with his players, that communication is less about where they are on the court and more about where they are in the heads, and in their lives.
“You know, most of the time these kids, they have no one to talk to, or even to listen to. So as a coach and a mentor you can actually take that time to listen and hear what they’re saying,” says Myvett. “And they’re not looking for answers all the time but sometimes just that release, to talk about it, and we can offer some advice and some solutions and try it. But we’re always that someone that they can talk to.”
Myvett understands intimately just how much a good coach can mean. Today he’s the physical education coach at Samuel Green Charter School and the basketball coach at New Orleans Charter Science and Math High School. Earlier, he played basketball at the University of New Orleans and went on to an eight-year professional career playing overseas. Where he started out, however, was south central Los Angeles, surrounded by trouble.
“The area I grew up in, there were a lot of gangs, you know, rival gangs going on. I used sports to channel my energy to step away from that,” he says. “So I share a little bit about that background with them and they see I’m from the same kind of neighborhood and I made it out of that neighborhood, you know, using sports, and education and I also had coaches that helped me.”
Myvett is now in the coach and mentor role here in New Orleans through an organization called Up2Us. This national nonprofit first arrived in New Orleans in 2012 to help more local organizations serve youth through sports using a program called Coach Across America.
“Essentially, we’re bringing in these highly trained youth development mentors to help children kind of find their way as individuals and sports is just the vehicle in which we deliver those services,” says local Up2Us coordinator Luella Williams. “Overall, the goal is to help organizations be a little more intentional about how they interact with youth through sports. It’s not just going out and throwing around the ball or running, it’s about really connecting with those individuals.”
With training and a stipend, the program now supports 19 coaches in the area, working in programs from rugby to tennis. Up2Us plans to expand to 150 Coach Across America coaches working here by 2018. They believe their work can change patterns of violence and poverty, improve health and expand horizons. That’s serious business, but as Myvett sees on the court and in the gym those changes often start by having a little fun.
“Just their attitude, their overall attitudes, you can tell their tone is down, they don’t seem as angry and as anxious, you know,” he says. “There’s a level of calmness to some degree and they’re getting along with other people and learning from their mistakes and you can see that they’re growing as an individual.”
Written by Ian McNulty for the Community IMPACT Series and produced by WWNO in partnership with the Greater New Orleans Foundation. To learn more about Up2Us and Coach Across America, click here.