I’ve often talked about the difference I believe sports and recreation can bring into a community, but unless you have known me for some time, you might not understand why I am so passionate about it. I thank God for the introduction of sports and recreation in my life. Just about everything I own or that is significant in my life has come through these pipelines.
My story began in Trelawny, Jamaica, and if you have spent any time in that country you can see that poverty has lingered there for quite some time. This was a familiar story for my family. Growing up in different homes, sometimes among 7 family members sharing 2 beds, or not having more than $10 per month for the entire household to live on. Looking back, I realized how limited our resources were, however, I had a wonderful childhood that I would not change even a bit.
From a very young age I loved to run fast, being around my friends, roller blading down the steepest hills we could find, and playing soccer in the streets. We would repeat these passions each day after school and on the weekends. My friends and I stayed busy with recreation while friends and family members were killed, given that Jamaica struggled with a reputation for violence.
A reason the word opportunity is one of my favorite is the fact that I recognized the concept of it when I came to America in 2002 at the age of 14. My mother, doing everything in her power to bring me closer to her, found a way. Immediately, I started to see all the possibilities for my life, I started to think about college and how I would be able to help those that were not as fortunate back in Jamaica. I was ready for High School, prepared to use every technique I learned from Zach Morris in Saved by the Bell (my then perception of American High School). It’s safe to say I had a wonderful high school experience. Through the mentorship of my coaches and teachers I became familiar with all the resources that surrounded me. It was in this period during my freshman year that I decided I would take advantage of some type of athletic scholarship.
While in Jamaica, I played soccer in the streets and ran against the kids in my neighborhood and in my school. So naturally, one would think that I would gravitate to soccer and track, not quite. I was recruited to run track, I played basketball, a sport rarely played at the time in Jamaica, and by some type of trickery was lured to play football..American Football. I had no experience whatsoever in football and was often teased about not knowing where the Endzone was; and my inability to catch even the flu as a wide receiver. However, I stayed at it and was surrounded by knowledgable coaches who guided me all the way to a full Athletic Scholarship to play American Football at Illinois State University.
At Illinois State University I majored in, you guessed it, Recreation Management. Still, while I saw the impact it had on my life so far I was not sure how I would apply all that I was learning. After taking my entrepreneurial studies class, it all clicked. I would aim to start an organization that shows people all the recreational resources around them and connecting them to individuals of similar interest. This was the beginning of RecChanges, recreation changes lives.
Recreation and sports had always been the road for me. Not only did pursuing this venture connect me with amazing individuals within the community, it gave me an incredible opportunity to direct a community hub, the Eastside Boys and Girls Club of San Antonio. But the most important path recreation gave me was the direction to my wife, a person who completely understood the importance of sports and recreation. The path of my wife was very similar to mine but even better. She moved from a Caribbean country at high school age, was fortunate to earn a full athletic scholarship to play basketball, she was then drafted # 4 in the WNBA draft to play 10 elite years professionally. One incredible stat about my wife and I is that we have both attained Masters degrees from Universities through full scholarships because of Recreation.
We teamed up for life, and to create RecChanges because we understand what it can do for youths and adults. This is a very common story, whether you notice it or not, recreation has impacted your life in a positive way as well. I’ve heard this story time and time again and we look forward in hearing many more.
Follow our journey as we launch our App in May 2016. We would love to hear how recreation has impacted your life.