Sports Save Lives…
This opinion is one that the Founders of Greater Youth Sports not only believe to be true but have an intimate relationship with.
The forming of GYSA came about almost by accident when Co-Founder, Devonte Woodson, an elementary school teach at the time, saw a glaring problem with many of his students. One student in particular made it his goal to be disruptive in class, was disrespectful to adults and other students, had low academic scores, and had an unlimited amount of pent up energy. When Devonte asked the student what he did after school to release this energy the student replied “Nothing”. The student in fact had no physical outlet and had never participated in any sort of organized sports. He along with many of his classmates were not given the opportunity to play sports due to expense and access. And so GYSA was born. From a small soccer camp held at one elementary school, the program has grown into something Devonte could never have expected.
While this is where the company began, the mission was one that existed for years inside Devonte, for he himself was saved by sports. As a child Devonte’s affinity towards sports was strong. However, growing up in a single mother household with four other siblings meant that access to sports wasn’t always a priority. Devonte would find ways to play however, even if it meant walking miles to practice, because he like many young athletes dreamed of one thing – playing professionally. His mother on the other hand had a different dream for her son, and that was for him to stay out of trouble, graduate high school and go to college. And so, playing basketball became a privilege that could be taken away due to poor grades or bad behavior. This is what kept Devonte in school and away from the temptations that take hold of many at-risk children and alter their futures forever. And when Devonte realized his dream of going pro would not come to fruition what he had left was the opportunity to attend college and a strong work ethic that allowed him to turn his energy to academic success.
From having a 2.5 GPA in high school to graduating with a Master’s Degree in Teaching, Devonte credits his commitment to sports for his academic success. Sports were the hook that kept him motivated and he believes ALL students regardless of their economic standing can be successful.
On the flip side, GYSA’s co-founder Annalise Lullo grew up with access to sports that all children deserve. Active from a young age, Annalise was enrolled in soccer, gymnastics, and ultimately found her true passion in dance. From age 12 through age 18 Annalise had the opportunity to dance competitively. While dance was her preferred activity to participate in, Basketball and Football were her favorite sports to watch. She eventually took this passion to another level working in professional sports for many years. Like Devonte she recognized the power of sports and joined him enthusiastically in building GYSA.
Their backgrounds were different but their goal of providing opportunities for ALL is united.
While sports are at the core of the GYSA after school sports program, the mission goes a step farther and uses sports to teach the importance of education and character. After all successful lives don’t strictly come from athletic talent but from outstanding work ethic, a positive attitude and excellent character. This is what sets Greater Youth Sports program apart – by providing a safe environment for students to learn, grow, and develop confidence they will have the skills and will power to tackle any goal they set.
When We Stand Together with our goals and vision aligned, we can change lives.