United Basketball Initiative Shoots For Success
By Elio Velez
Jeff Wilder works with children every day as a teacher at MS 105 in Edgemere. At 3 p.m., when the school kids has finally been dismissed, Wilder's interaction with the children doesn't end.
Wilder, along with Kyle Herd Correll, has begun a new mentoring program called "The United Basketball Initiative". The program uses a mix of sports and education to give boys ages 9-17 lessons about not only sports, education but a guideline of how to live a healthy life.
The program will collaborate with the Elite Warriors AAU boys' basketball club and Coach Wilder's Training Camp For Life Inc. in giving the Rockaway youth a viable option other than hanging out on the streets. They intend to mentor children, create life workshop series and athletic training.
According to Wilder, they have already had some successful workshops in the past few months at the RDRC Beacon Program at P.S. 333, where the program is currently based. "I feel that our program is unique because there is a lot of opportunity to learn and grow," Wilder told The Wave.
Herd-Correll, a partner in the program and Wilder's best friend will instruct on conflict resolution and violence prevention workshops. "Our goal is to teach them to be responsible, stay out of trouble and educate them in a positive manner," Wilder said.
The "United Basketball Initiative" will team up with the Elite Warriors AAU boys program. The program will be the only registered boys AAU team in the peninsula according to Wilder and says it can curtail kids from traveling long distances to other AAU programs.
They currently have a 13 and under team and will create programs for the 11 and under and 15 and under division in the near future. Elite Warriors will participate in the AAU Super Boys Basketball Super Regional in Easton, Pennsylvania in May.
"The AAU is well known and extremely popular with the kids so it is an easy hook, then we hit them with the academic and mentoring requirements of training camp for life."
Wilder has an extensive background with basketball. He grew up in Rockaway and became an explosive player for Beach Channel High School, earning all-city honors in 1984 from the major daily newspapers.
Iona College gave him a full athletic scholarship where he graduated after four years to play professional basketball in Europe and the Virgin Islands.
In 2004, after retiring from pro basketball, Wilder was named head coach at Pacific Alternative High School in Brooklyn, where he led them to the PSAL city championship.
Wilder has always wanted to be a teacher and his intention is not to use the AAU program to attract kids to gain big sneaker deals.
He eventually hopes that sponsors will be interested in a program which will instill kids with the means to become productive members in society.
"I always wanted to be a teacher. There are a lot of vices and gangs out there and people tell us that we are trying to save the world and that is farther from the truth," Wilder says.
"We are here because of our hearts. We know what comes with the territory. These kids' lives are worth any difficulties we may encounter along the way. The opportunity to help them is a blessing in our lives."
For more information about the program, call 917-774-4520.