It Starts With One Person Who Believes
I was sitting in a meeting with a principal and a teacher and they were both saying praises about a guy named Al Northington. At the time, he had led the Iroquois girls’ basketball team to the Sweet 16. They said, if anyone deserved to win the title, he was the man. About a week later, I received a call from George, the OnyxLouisville photographer, bragging about this same coach and how he just became the first African-American to win a state girls basketball title.
I had to find out who this man was and hear about his accomplishment. I talked to him at 7:00pm on a Thursday night. The night before the school’s big celebration for the win that would include the Mayor and everyone from the community. He was still at the school hanging up banners and doing all the last minute details (alone). He told me about a high school, Iroquois, that for several years didn’t have a girl’s basketball team due to lack of interest. At the time, he taught basketball camps at Brandeis Elementary School and saw a fourth grader that he felt was skilled enough to play high school varsity ball. Her name was Adia Mathies. When she and several other females entered middle school, he placed them on Iroquois HIGH SCHOOL’s varsity team. Yes, sixth graders playing against the big girls.
And slowly but surely, he changed the program around. One win at a time, they made believers out of doubters and winners out of girls who often only felt loss. But it wasn’t easy. He had to beg some of the girls just to come to school. Many had problems with their grades. Some had attitudes and trouble with their teachers. Several would have been kicked off the team if they went to other schools. But, Coach Northington refused to give up on them. He altered his coaching style to try to reach them and stay motivated.
Coach is proud of what he has accomplished, but feels this is only the beginning. He feels that six of his girls have potential to play at a Division 1 school. Unfortunately, due to grades and other circumstances, only one of them will be playing at a D One school next year. As much as he tries to do it himself, he still feels that these ladies need mentors, especially females, to help them change their ways. He wants them to have mentors that will stress the importance of college.
It was interesting to me because the day before I spoke with Coach, I wrote as my facebook status ‘Michelle wants to be more involved with a community organization- especially the youth’. Who would have known that God would have answered my request just a day later with a simple phone call?
OnyxLouisville readers, here is where you come in. Coach Northington and I are going to put together some type of program for these women to meet and talk with other urban professionals (especially women) in the community to tell them that not only are we proud of them, but we want to help them continue to be a difference and make the difference. The details of the program have not yet been worked out and the time commitment will be minimal. The ladies cannot strive for a better life if they are not exposed to people that have struggled, yet continued to seek success. Please email me if you can be a part of this project. While a state basketball title can be sweet, we all know high school only lasts so long – and then the real world begins!
Email me if you’re willing to help!
Congratulations also to Adia who was also named Miss KY Basketball 2009! She will wear the #1 jersey in the all star game this summer!!
M.Y. March 2009