By Tara Figurski
Reigning Sports Academy helps keep kids off the street by teaching commitment, dedication and teamwork, according to founder Chris Haywood.
The non-profit group provides opportunities to kids who cannot afford them, she said. The program is housed at Dodge Recreation Center and Cross Creek School.
“I see similar programs offered in the community, but the cost is just not affordable for most inner city youth and this was concerning to me,” Haywood said.
Reigning Sports offers speed and agility training, and football and basketball programs. The group plans to add a power lifting team and an indoor football league, Haywood said.
Haywood said participation in sports builds confidence.
“All kids want the opportunity to boast about belonging to something, and sports put a positive twist on this, and also may give kids a chance or the motivation to pursue college,” she said.
Local volunteers, like childhood friends Arnez Parks and Victor Benson, donate their time to the football program. Parks said he played football from pee-wee league through high school.
“I needed to help,” he said. “I wanted to give them somebody to look up to.”
The football team competes in the Southwest Gridiron League, along with groups from the Grove City and Obetz areas.
Volunteer Frank Edwards got involved because he loves football and wanted to make a social contribution.
“I love giving back to the community,” he said. “That is what it is all about.”
Reigning Sports received support from the city of Columbus in form of a $3,000 youth grant, Haywood said.
“We were able to purchase uniforms and football equipment for our middle school aged youth,” she said. “This is our first grant and we are so grateful and excited.”
The program also got funding from residents Troy Speakman, Ken Bailey, Monica Herrera and Dave Gilchrist, Haywood said.
Possible need for new location
Reigning Sports may move locations later this year, according to Haywood.
The group would need to change facilities if Dodge Recreation Center becomes overwhelmed in coming months. The recreation center is expected to assist neighboring programs while the Westgate Community Center undergoes renovations, Haywood said.
Volunteers hope to secure about 3,000 square feet in space to offer their full range of programs, according to Haywood. Members also want to add a mentoring and life coaching program, she said.
Reigning Sports accepts youth ages 4 to 18. For information, visit www.reigningsports.com or call 375-2158.