The Gold Standard: Jonathan Ford

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SHREVEPORT, La. (KTAL/KMSS) —  Sports at their core are not big business, big money, or big entertainment. They are just games. The Sports Director for the YMCA of Northwest Louisiana knows this, and games are supposed to be fun.

“It all starts with the 4, 5, 6 and 7-year-olds. Making sure that they’re just having fun,” said Ford.

That philosophy has the YMCA doing more to grow youth sports in our area than any other organization in terms of overall child participation.

“You have to have a passion for sports,” said Ford. “You have to have a passion for what you do, to excel in it.”

With 8,500 members at their BHP Billiton and Downtown locations, the YMCA has thousands of kids taking part in their youth sports programs annually.

“I think if they just, have fun they’re going to continue to do it,” said Ford. “Some of them will keep on playing. Past high school. Hopefully, past college.”

600 kids, ages 3 to 14, take part in their basketball program alone.

With the costs of youth sports rising, the YMCA continues to offer an affordable space for kids to blossom.

“Eventually they’re going to go and leave us, and go somewhere else. Hopefully they’ve gained all the skill and knowledge they need to excel wherever they go,” said Ford. “Its given kids that I know otherwise don’t have an opportunity to play anywhere because of the cost of the game. They can come here and play for a fraction of that.”

The facilities also give kids a space space, when the streets can be unsafe.

“Its amazing on the weekends, will have 40-50 people in here playing basketball,” said Ford. “Come in here, get off the streets. Find a place to play.”

Ford says he grew up at the Broadmoor YMCA. He wants Shreveport’s future generations to look back as fondly at the experience as he does.

“I want them to have a positive memory,” said Ford. “I saw one of our little boys that’s in our basketball program at dinner, and he recognized me. He was wearing his uniform, proud as can be, and I was loving it. He was just smiling at me and he said, ‘You’re the basketball guy.’ And I was like, “Yeah, that’s me.”

Ford says through the “Y-Cares Program”, families who can not afford to take part in youth sports leagues can get scholarships to drastically reduce the already low costs.

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