Tony Jones sits on a bleacher in the Boys and Girls Club's gym at Dogwood Terrace during a recent basketball game, shouting commands to the Rockets, the Junior NBA League team he coaches.
Mr. Jones, whose team of 11- to 13-year-olds went on to defeat the Heat, 36-12, said he accepted the position immediately when he learned the club needed a volunteer coach.
"It's far better than seeing them out there in the streets playing," the 21-year-old Decatur, Ga., native said. "I'd rather see them come in here and play and teach them something."
The 18-team league began its 2005 season Jan. 24. There are three divisions for boys ages 8 to 18, and games are played at both the organization's Dogwood Terrace Unit and the Hagler Unit.
Mr. Jones said he wishes he could do more to help the league, but he doesn't have time.
"I can only coach one team," the Paine College junior said. "I've got to go to school."
Gary Winferry, the operations director of the Boys and Girls Club, said that there is a need for more coaches.
"We're still looking for coaches for these kids. Coaches are needed badly," Mr. Winferry said, adding that he now has some coaches pulling triple duty.
"There's one (coach) with three, a team in each division, so he has a game at the Hagler Unit, and when that's over, he has another team to go to at Dogwood Terrace," Mr. Winferry said. "If he had an assistant coach or there was another coach, they could share the duties."
Staff Sgt. Derek Wilson, a recruiter for the Army National Guard, coaches two teams.
The 31-year-old, said it's tough making time for the youths.
"The staff already works a lot," he said. "(Coaching) is very important. These kids need a lot of role models, male and female, to come out and volunteer their time and show the kids that you can be successful and also make time for them."
Rockets teammates Lajeffery Meyers, 12, Darnell Brown, 13, and Diriuss Smiley, 13, said they love basketball, and if they weren't playing at the club they would be on a court in their Dogwood Terrace housing area.
"This is a positive place," said Diriuss, a Murphy Middle School sixth-grader.
"He (the coach) can teach us how to play, basic things we'll need to learn when we get older," said Lajeffery, a sixth-grader at Terrell Academy.
Reach C. Samantha McKevie at (706) 823-3552 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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