It was early afternoon, and the clouds covered the sky as the threat of rain was in the air. Those on the football field at Halifax County High School hoped the rain would hold off. As the kids and coaches began running drills, the sound of laughter pierced the air as they worked out.
Two quarterbacks alternated throws as a group of receivers lined up to work on route running. One coach critiqued each route ran to make sure the kids understood the importance of running the route taught, while one coach worked with the quarterbacks about the best way to throw the football and where to throw the ball to give the receiver the best chance to catch the ball.
As Derek Fountain stood on the sidelines, it was obvious his place was on the field.
He wanted to be in the middle of the drill helping his other coaches get the most out of the players. As he stood there talking, hat on backward with his burgundy 434 Supreme Sports Academy shirt, he constantly glanced over to where the drill was going on and at times would stop to yell over to the players on the field about something he saw.
This is a weekly occurrence on the field as the 434 Supreme Sports Academy begins to work toward building a league for every kid to have the opportunity to play one of the many sports that are offered.
A year ago, Diante Medley was sitting at his house thinking of ways he could help local youth with sports and also teach them things that will aid them in life. He reached out to his friend, Fountain, who he had coached with and formed the Southside Panthers organization with years ago that no longer exists.
Together, along with Dwaine Brandon, the three men sat down to come up with a way to provide the kids these things. From there the 434 Supreme Sports Academy was born. The academy is a 501C3 not-for-profit organization that is a member of the Amateur Athletic Union. AAU was formed in 1888 and is the largest non-profit volunteer multi-sport event organizations in the world that has nearly 700,000 members and 150,000 volunteers across 41 sports programs and 55 U.S. districts.
It has taken a lot of time and coordination from Medley, Fountain and Brandon to get the paperwork done to form the group and to become a member of AAU, but they are now officially ready to move forward with their vision.
“We have our charter from AAU, and we are ready to go,” Fountain said.
Fountain is hoping that they are able to field several sports in the organization including football, basketball, soccer, volleyball, baseball, softball, cheerleading and dance. AAU teams play teams from all over the country and gain invaluable experience at a young age competing in tournaments against some of the top amateur athletes in the country.
Fountain also is looking for the program to work together with coaches at the middle and high school to help the athletes prepare for what to expect when they make it to that level. Fountain said those coaches are on board and have even reached out to provide assistance in any way to help them get going.
Fountain says it is important for the kids to know the basics about the sport they are playing including how to play their position and that learning that at a young age will help the coaches at the middle and high school level because they will not have to spend as much time teaching them the basics.
“I want these kids prepared for when they go to middle school and high school so they won’t be nervous,” Fountain said.
Sports are obviously an important aspect when it comes to the program, but Fountain and the other founders know that they need to be there for the children in other ways as well to get them ready for the things they will encounter as they grow up. While they are still in their infancy, the group is in the process of drawing up bylaws and forming their board. They have been able to work with other people in the county who have committed their time and resources to the program.
They have worked with local mentoring programs in the community so that if any of their kids are having problems at home or school they can have those mentors come out and provide their services. They also are working on securing a building so that the kids will have somewhere to go before their practices or games, and they can work on their homework. Fountain also said they are going to provide tutoring services as well.
“When I was growing up we had certain things we could do and certain places to go like arcades,” Fountain said. He said they want to be able to provide a safe place for the kids to come and at the same time provide vital services to them that will help them as they grow up such as SAT and PSAT prep.
These services are important for the kids that want to play college athletics. The NCAA has strict requirements when it comes to playing college sports, and Fountain has prepared for that. Fountain has already made packets for each member with requirements when they begin high school.
The packet tells them what they need to take each year and the grades they must have in those classes, and when they complete everything in the packet they will be division one eligible. These small things are important for kids that may not understand what it takes off the field to play college sports.
Fountain knows that they have to have the commitment from the kids in order for them to succeed, and he has a phrase he uses for that, “We are going to cook it up for them, but they have to eat it.”
There also are goals on the field as well for the kids. They want them to be able to have a place to go and play competitive sports, but they also have plans to help those that want to go on to the next level and play. Having players from rural areas get recruited can be a struggle sometimes because there just aren’t as many athletes at those schools that go on to play at the next level compared to schools in northern Virginia and Virginia Beach. Fountain is hoping that will change with being a member of AAU.
With the exposure that kids can get at some of the bigger AAU tournaments such as Boo Williams for basketball, Fountain is hoping that will bring more college recruiters to the area to see the athletes.
He also has people that will be dedicated to filming practices and games so that any player who wants to have tape for recruiters will have it. Ricky Petty, another volunteer for the program and a Halifax graduate who went to East Carolina University to run track and play football wants everyone to have an opportunity if they want it.
“This program is open to any player or athlete in Halifax, and all athletes will have a chance to play and get recognized,” Petty said.
“Some of them might not have someone to look out for them when it comes to colleges or video tape and we will make sure every last one of them will have a tape on them if they want to go to college,” he added.
Together they are working to provide everything that a kid will need to not only succeed and be a part of something at a young age, but to help provide the tools for them to succeed in life as well.
The 434 Supreme Sports Academy will be holding its first sign ups from 2 to 4:30 p.m. Thursday in the back parking lot at Halifax County Middle School. Fountain said it will be a drive-thru sign ups.
Sign ups will be for football, basketball, cheerleading and dance ages 9-18.