A few years ago, Dewayne Belew began coaching his son Christopher’s basketball team at the YMCA. Christopher aged out of the YMCA basketball leagues after eighth grade, but since he still wanted to play, he and his dad would shoot hoops together.
“Early on, Christopher wasn’t necessarily an outstanding player, but he had a great work ethic,” says Belew. “He would watch what characters in video games did and then try to emulate what he saw when we played together. He ultimately made the junior varsity team at his school, but he wanted more.”
As Christopher and his dad continued to play, they looked for other competitive-play opportunities.
“At that point our church, Wesley Memorial United Methodist, hired a new youth director, Nate Davis, who also happens to love basketball,” Belew says. “One thing led to another and we ended up opening the gym at the church on Saturday mornings from 8 to 10 for anyone who wanted to come play.”
Initially, Belew, his son and Davis and his sons invited a few people to join them on Saturday mornings. Word spread quickly and before long they had a crowd of young adults in their 20s, high school teens and middle schoolers, male and female - all wanting to play.
“If you had told me we would have a bunch of young people who intentionally go to bed early on Friday night so they can get up and go play basketball for fun on Saturday morning at 8, I would have told you no way, but that’s exactly what is happening. We have a lot of fun. My personal goal is to not let them outhustle me, but all of them outplay me.”
In the midst of the game, Belew contends that a lot of learning takes place.
“The guys all know that the gym is usually already set up for Sunday so whatever is in place has to be taken down before they can play and replaced before they leave,” Belew says. “We play hard. It is definitely competitive, but everybody gets to play. We’ve got some really talented players who teach those who are coming along. I love watching the young adults come alongside the teens to help them hone their skills.”
Belew shared that a teen told him he plays basketball all over the community, but this is his favorite place to play because everybody plays hard, nobody is foul-mouthed and nobody gets angry. It’s fun.
“In the midst of all of this we have the opportunity to model appropriate behavior around not just the game, but life in general,” Belew says. “We are a very diverse crowd on Saturday mornings. For many of these folks, it was the only time they engaged with each other. Now, they are building relationships. Before we start playing, we always gather at mid court to pray for each other and we give people the chance to share what is on their hearts. For me, and I think for my son and others, this has been life-changing on many levels.
Many young men’s lives are being enriched because one dad paid attention to something that was important to his son. Opportunities to speak life into our community’s kids are everywhere, and often, the only requirement is a little bit of our time.