Panel discusses importance of mentoring male African American athletes

By: Katherine Rufener Email
By: Katherine Rufener Email

Local youth development leaders met Thursday in Michigan City to discuss the importance of mentoring male African American athletes.

Men from the Indiana Mentoring Partnership, local coaches and a representative from the NCAA Eligibility Center attended the luncheon.

The speakers acknowledged that this is just one of many student groups that need attention, but black male athletes, they say, are beginning to focus more on athleticism than academics.

Their goal is to make sure their dreams are bigger than their high school gyms and fields.

Tim Clark with the Indiana Mentoring Partnerships said Thursday's meeting was meant to plant a seed of interest in the area, but what they really need are more people willing to help.

"It needs more adults who are willing to take time out of their busy schedules to step up and lend a hand," Clark said. "We all need to make sure that we're doing the right things to help these kids down the right path."

Local gym owner and high school football coach Ryan Gaston said he's saddened by the lack of drive he sees in young black athletes and students.

"What our African American young male athletes are suffering from today is not having a vision, not having a picture of seeing themselves go off to college," says Gaston.

When it comes to succeeding, the focus should be in the classroom as well as on the field or the court, Gaston said.

"Gary Patterson, who's the head coach at TCU University, was my defensive coordinator in college. He once told me, 'Ryan, your biggest enemy to your success right now is you,' and he said, 'When you learn to beat yourself by going to class and doing the things that you're supposed to be doing, that's when you will be undefeated,'" Gaston said.

If you're interested in becoming a mentor or what to look into other ways to help, click on the Big Red Bar.

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