During my time as a Coach at Sunny Brae in the San Fernando Valley, I realized the power and impact our sports programming can have on a student’s life. One of my students, K (name shortened to respect privacy), had behavior issues both during school and LA’s BEST. K’s mom really needed the program, she was a single parent and she didn’t have family support. I always made sure to support her and find ways to work with her and K.
I started to coach the basketball team and K decided to join. When I saw how motivated and excited he was when he played, I realized this was a way for me to get to know him. I began to make analogies between basketball and his behavior outside of sports. We talked about respecting teammates, being responsible and coming to practice, being aware of each other and responding to your team’s actions. Our conversations were really about accountability, respect and communication, and I think he got it! He started to open up and he said to me, “I think I need to change the ways I act with other students.”
LA’s BEST received 20 donated tickets from the Lakers to take our students to a game. For a lot of our students it was their first time going to the Staples Center and they were all so excited, especially K. Seeing K’s face during the game was incredible, he was so into it! All the kids were so grateful, you could just see it in their eyes.
The next day K’s mom said to me, “K would have never had that experience without LAs BEST. Thank you. I know he has behavior issues during the school day but he doesn’t in LA’s BEST. How can we make sure he acts this way in school?” Since I had developed such a connection with K, I felt it was my responsibility to talk to his teachers. I told them that using sports as an incentive worked for me to connect with K, and we started to collaborate to support him and his mom. K started doing better in school and we saw a complete turnaround. I was really proud of him and I told him so.
I learned through LA’s BEST that children are not problems to be solved, they are individuals that need to be developed. You need to build a connection with every student and their family to understand what they’re going through. I stayed in contact with K’s mom and she told me that K’s grades had improved significantly because he wanted to keep playing sports in middle school. Not only was K enjoying himself doing what he loved best, he learned valuable life lessons that will help him succeed in school and in life.