Proof sports can be more than a game

Published 8:46 pm Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Two generations ago, Ronald Hart was a two-sport standout in Suffolk, then on the gridiron at North Carolina A&T.

One generation ago, Lamont Strothers starred on the hardwood for Forest Glen and Christopher Newport.

As outstanding as their athletic careers were, neither quite had the ability and fame to “take their talents to South Beach”, although Hart fondly recalls when his Aggies traveled to Florida A&M one fall and beat the Rattlers and “the world’s fastest man,” Bob Hayes.

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Hart was inducted into North Carolina A&T’s Sports Hall of Fame a few weeks ago and while athletic feats are the main reason anyone becomes a member of a “Sports Hall of Fame,” it is hoped the civic contributions Hart’s made after his playing career had some role in the honor he received, as well.

Hart taught and coached at Suffolk high schools for 17 years and in the area for 33 years.

Football is obviously a competitive endeavor. Wins, championships and individual honors are needed goals for coaches as much as players.

Now, more than a decade since moving on from his teaching and coaching career, Hart speaks of both interchangeably and simultaneously. What he cherishes the most was the same from each was shaping kids into young adults the community would be proud of.

Part of how Strothers works with kids through his G.E.S.U.S. Ball organization is basketball. Basketball is going to be a centerpiece of Saturday’s Stop the Violence Community Fest, which he is organizing at Mary Estes Park.

Winning and earning college scholarships motivates any AAU basketball team and its coach.

What Strothers strives for on a more consistent basis though, whether it’s in Suffolk or with G.E.S.U.S. Ball, based in Newport News and Hampton, is using basketball as a tool, perhaps a carrot sometimes, for teaching about respect (for self and others), work ethic and friendship.

The Community Fest includes a three-on-three basketball tournament for kids, ages 9-17. Strothers wants as many kids as possible to come out.

There’s more to the Community Fest than hoops, with a youth talent show, gospel performances and free food among the other draws.

Most important, Strothers wants the festival to show “a neighborhood can come together and have a good time without the fighting.”