Now in our 5th year, I knew that RCC had to adjust. We’ve had some 12 and 13 year olds who’ve been with us for three years. To our youth, RCC is the biggest commitment they make—even more so than school—and it can (and did) lead to burnout. For 9-12 months, we hold our youth accountable towards every success and failure they earn. In rain, cold, mud, 100-degree heat, uphill grinds, and downhill crashes, our youth, on their own accord, show up every week to uphold their commitment to RCC. We could intuitively feel a plateau with our youth this past year around July—and although incredibly successful by any means, if you’re not dynamic in this line of work, that plateau quickly edges towards a descent.
I keep a basketball in my truck at all times. On some weekends, usually Sundays, I’ll do some “youth-freestyling”—which means I head out to Fairfield Court, drive up and down Rosetta St., Phaup St., and Cool Lane to round up whatever RCC youth are roaming around. On Phaup St. are the courts, and we’ll play pickup games. Every time I play ball with the youth, I thank my older brother for introducing me to the sport growing up, and my Mom for taking me to countless games and practices. My ability to play has become a huge catalyst in building rapport with our youth…from Day-1. On the courts, the youth constantly talk of playing high school basketball. Whether it’s Henrico High, Armstrong, or being bussed to Thomas Jefferson or Marshall, they see how shooting a ball at busted up, net-less, bent-from-dunking hoops on Phaup St. will help them in the future. Joining a ‘tribe’ in high school is everything—be it the band, theater group, or athletic team—sitting at the cafeteria table solo is a bust.
And so, back in September, among a media storm of criticism about the underperformance of Richmond Public Schools, I began to think of a better way to retain our high school youth—while giving our 12 & 13-year olds a target (incentive) to aim for. Our youth don’t perceive themselves as cyclists (yet)—which is fine by us—but we need to get them to qualify how RCC can be a part of their social-network when social pressures are highest…high school. 90% of high school kids join clubs, teams, activities because they’re looking for social acceptance. With the majority of RCC youth between the ages of 11-13, it’s hard for our high school youth to feel that RCC has a place within their social parameters. For our 13 year olds, they’re having a difficult time imagining how RCC will assist their social endeavors when they enter high school in six months.
A cycling program at a school like Armstrong High will the first of its kind anywhere. Armstrong is the melting pot to which students from five different public housing neighborhoods converge. The school is located within the housing project we’ve been working out of for the past four years, Fairfield Court. It only makes sense for us to try, and so we are. We don’t know what a program like this can become, or what it will become, but like the past four years of RCC, and if we can run the program our way, we don’t plan on failing.
Founder & Director