ROCKINGHAM — On Saturday morning, members and volunteers of the All S.T.A.R Academy geared up to take the mound and throw their first pitch while training young student athletes, ages 6 to 13, on the fields of Rockingham Middle school.
The All S.T.A.R Academy is an organization focused on developing successful student athletes through four major principles which represent the letters of the acronym in S.T.A.R: Sportsmanship, Training, Academics, and Respect. One of the founders, Cameron Wright-Hairston, mother of three and a coach at Parks and Recreation in Rockingham, says the program was created because she and fellow coaches noticed a deficiency.
“We noticed that the kids would go up to the plate and not even know how to hold the bat,” Wright-Hariston said.
She recalls one time in particular that a left-handed batter from another team who was hitting on the right-hand side of the plate for the entire season. A lot of Parks and Rec. Coaches are parents and volunteers, such as her and her husband, who want to provide the opportunity to children to be able to play and learn. While the intentions are good, the training and development of the student athlete is lacking due to little experience in sports from the adults; the All S.T.A.R Academy wishes to bridge the gap.
Wright-Hairston said, “There are some students who are out there to have fun, but there are some who have true potential to be great athletes.”
The All S.T.A.R Academy, which was initially intended to be a camp and nothing more, was bred overnight after a brainstorming session with fellow founders over the name. They changed the A in S.T.A.R from attitude to academics and it became apparent that there needed to be more than a camp and perhaps a program that existed year-round. Wright-Hairston, along with husband and co-founder and training facilitator, Kerick Hairston, became more aware of the lack of time they had in between work and practice for their children.
“The biggest struggle that my husband and I had with our kids was managing time for them to get their homework done before they had to go to practice. By the time we got home, it’s three or four o’clock and we had to hurry up and help them with their homework. So that’s a big thing, especially for parents who get off work at 5 o’clock,” Hairston said.
In response to the academic need, Hairston recruited Danielle Garth, a high school math teacher at Richmond Senior High, to provide academic enrichment to the Academy’s members. With the support of Garth, they have partnerships with teachers at Washington Street, where most of their members attend, to track and follow their students from elementary to middle school, serving as a liaison between the parents and the teachers.
Garth adds that she plans to start a program to continue supporting the students during the transition years from middle school through high school to keep them on track academically and behaviorally. She wants to reminds them that they are students first and an athlete second.
“The same discipline they need in the classroom, is the same discipline they need on the field,” says Garth.
Anthony Hailey, another member of the team of founders and pitching coach at Hamlet Middle School, says “the main reason they we want to focus on ages 6 to 13 is so that they can get in the mindset that they have to get work done before they can go out and play and participate on a team.”
Wright- Hairston goes on to say, “Richmond County breeds athletes, but they are unable to go on to the next level because they don’t have the academics side down packed. For my kids, I’m not allowing that to happen, so why not help the community.”
The baseball training camp that took place last Saturday was a major success and the students enjoyed a full day of training and drills focused on throwing, catching, and fielding. One participant, Graham Odom, 8 years old, who has been playing baseball for three years now, proves the program is already working.
“I’m learning to throw, catch and field better. I also learned that if there’s a pop fly, I can hold one hand up to block the sun and catch the ball with my gloved hand” says Odom.
When asked about his future in baseball, Odom states his desire to play in college and to one day be able to play for the major leagues, which is a long-term goal of the All S.T.A.R Academy for all of its participants.
The training camp hosted about 30 young athletes with about 10 coaches and volunteers lending support while a number of parents looked on. The participants left with more knowledge and confidence in the sport, their athletic ability and a package which included information about the academy and coupons from local sponsors.
Right now, the All S.T.A.R Academy is a pilot program focusing on about 10 to 15 student athletes with the goal of them each either receiving an athletic or academic scholarship upon graduation from high school. While they have received an enormous outpouring of support from the community, they do not wish to take on more students without more assistance.
“We want to be able to do right by them,” says Wright-Hairston.
Members of the Academy will be drilled on the importance of the four principles, participate in incentive trips and receive academic support every Thursday at the Willie Wright Adult Day Center located in Rockingham once the school year starts. This Sunday, the Academy will be traveling to Winston Salem to see the Winston Salem Dash baseball team.
Wright-Hariston believes that the work that the All S.T.A.R. academy is doing will serve Richmond County as a whole while they continue to grow and branch out to include all sports. As a product and volunteer of the existing, strong program of Parks and Recreation in Rockingham, she sees the Academy as an additional asset and resource.
For any further questions or concerns please contact Cameron Wright- Hairston at firstname.lastname@example.org.