First Friday Message

Tall Guys Can't Jump

I was born in the nation’s capital but primarily raised in Lynchburg, VA. When I was nine, my mother moved us back “home” to Lynchburg, where she grew up and where the majority of my extended family lived, and it’s here that I felt a part of a village of elders who were all leaning in to collectively raise the kiddos in the neighborhood.

I had all the traits of my mother’s side of the family. I was very tall for my age, and I looked just like my uncles. Those in the community who knew my family would see me in various places and confidently say, “You must be a BOLDING! Who’s your mom and dad?” A certain degree of pride came with that recognition, and they would always look me up and down and guess how tall I’d be once I grew up.

By the age of 11, I was just north of six feet tall, and when you’re that tall at that age (and cursed with big, awkward feet!), basketballs start to rain out of the sky…whether you’re interested or not. Don’t get me wrong, I love the game of basketball, but I knew clearly, and early that height is not always an indicator of talent.

I played basketball in the city youth leagues and had the extreme pleasure of meeting Mr. Vic at my local community gym. As I know it now, Vic likely worked for the city’s rec department, and he opened and supervised this gym at one of our neighborhood schools each evening to keep the local kids off the street and safe. We all gave Vic a hard time, and he would often send it back our way, but all of us in the neighborhood looked up to Vic. He, too, was tall, easily 6’ 4” or taller, and he had true command of that gym. He kept our shenanigans in check, and he kept us safe.

Vic also coached the teams that played in the league from that gym. He was consistent and patient, he knew the game of basketball, and he taught us to play it the right way. Coach Vic was part of that village of elders who helped shape who I am today.

A couple of Saturdays ago, I found myself glued to the youth basketball action in the Roper Y gymnasium after I finished my workout. One of my first and fondest memories of my Y career was organizing youth basketball leagues in northwest Detroit. Every Saturday, I’d get to the Y early to set the gym up, making sure that things were perfect for our players. I always believed that, even though they may not have been playing in elite AAU-level leagues, they deserved an elite experience. I coached, I refereed the games, and, without fail, I’d be hoarse after a full day of cheering on our kids and watching them build their self-confidence through sport.

At Roper Y, I watched Coach Brian work his magic with his team. This guy was inspiring as he gave individualized pointers to each of his players from the minute they entered the gym, through the pre-game instructions, and through the game. He reminded me so much of Coach Vic.

Across our Ys, we have so many Coach Brians, showing up after work and on weekends, who help to create that village of positive and inspiring role models. They’re engineers, educators, accountants, firefighters, etc., who give of themselves for the betterment of our youth. They move mountains for our kids and often do so with little fanfare.

We are always in search of the next Coach Brian or Coach Vic. The pay isn’t great (actually, there is no pay!), after-hours work is required, and if you do your job well, you might just get swarmed by a team of sweaty kids, but take it from me, it’s worth it.

If you’re interested in volunteering as a coach or if you simply want to share a story of a great coach that inspired you, drop me a note.

I’m all ears.

Kevin Bolding, President & CEO
YMCA of Central Florida

The Y. For a better us.®