and everyday until September 8 at www.RichmondUnite.org/vote-now
by Monica Smith-Callahan
Recently U-TURN was named one of 39 youth oriented non-profit organizations in the Richmond area that would be in the running for a grant from Richmond Unite, an organization established to support other organizations. The key to getting this grant is votes. Supporters of U-TURN can log onto the Richmond Unite website, register with a valid email address, find the U-TURN logo and vote for U-TURN. Voting is open daily until September 8th. Winners will be announced on September 9th at an event hosted by Richmond Unite and featuring Sir Richard Branson of the Virgin family of companies. The organization with the most votes will get the largest percentage of the funds generated from the event. Organizations must have at least 500 votes to be eligible for any percentage of the funds.
You can upport U-TURN by casting your vote today and every day until September 8th at www.richmondunite.org/vote-now.
U-TURN Sports Academy is couched in an industrial area on the Richmond/Henrico line in a 150,000 square foot warehouse that once served as the Circuit City headquarters and retail store. It is one of Richmond’s best kept secrets.
Founded in 1992, U-TURN Sports Performance Academy is a state-of-the art sports facility. In 2010 alone, U-TURN provided services for more than 4,100 youth, ranging in age from 6 to 18. Students come from diverse walks of life, socio-economic levels and skill levels. It has grown into one of the most diverse organizations in the commonwealth. You can find students from public housing communities and affluent west end communities practicing and playing together.
While the majority of the students are from the Richmond Region, U-TURN has provided services for students from Northern Virginia, Tidewater and several Mid-Atlantic states, reaching as far as South Carolina with outreach efforts extending as far as the continent of Africa.
As you witness the activities and converse with participants, you’ll find that U-TURN is about more than coaching athletes how to run faster, jump higher, throw the perfect pass, hit the perfect tennis shot or do the textbook lay-up. U-TURN integrates sports and spirituality to teach life lessons to prepare young people to be productive citizens and champions for life.
U-TURN’s mission sits at the intersection of youth, sports and ministry where it aspires to create a place where young people can come together for athletics, social and recreational opportunities that build performance, character and a sense of community centered around Christian principles.
At U-TURN, there is recognition that Richmond is not immune from the physical, social, economic and relational issues that impact a large segment of our youth and their families daily. U-TURN believes that in a community where childhood obesity is prevalent, video games have been the sport of choice and teens are struggling with self-esteem and body image issues and peer pressure. Sports, along with character building, offers a solution to these challenges. Sports and faith offer ample opportunities to promote making healthy choices. U-TURN provides a dynamic social environment that nurtures values of fitness, teamwork, discipline, diversity, preparation, faith and love.
With an annual budget that exceeds $1 million, U-TURN’s services include athletic training programs in basketball, football, tennis, soccer and volleyball. U-TURN offers private and semi-private lessons in each sport. There are three levels of training: basic, next level and high performance. Each student is required to have an evaluation to determine the level of training. Strength and conditioning is also a part of training. Depending on the level, students will undergo 15 minutes to one hour of strength, speed and agility workouts during their training sessions. Stop and Drop Bible Study is a vital part of training too. Athletes learn fundamental life and character building principles that they can apply on and off the court.
This to what a pleased parent had to say about her family’s experience with U-TURN this summer.
“I just want to thank you and the folks at U-TURN Sports Performance Academy for helping my son have an AMAZING summer! My son just turned 14 and had never played tennis in a formal setting. He just finished middle school and is going into high school. Before he started U-TURN camp, my son was starting to have some disciplinary issues and simultaneously questioning his faith. He was slightly overweight and starting to have health issues. In three short weeks my son slimmed down to a healthy weight, was proud of his newfound strength and endurance, and learned to love the game of tennis. He has an increased sense of personal worth because his coaches believe in him and he made fast friends with his camp mates. He has become excited about running and strength training and plans to stay active during the school year. He also enjoyed the bible study even though he had been going through a period of spiritual doubt. I cannot thank U-TURN enough for giving me back my boy. He shook off the recalcitrant defiance and has embraced respectful responsibility with grace. What happens inside those walls is nothing short of miraculous. Keep up the great work!”
Tiffany F., Richmond, VA
In addition to training, U-TURN has ten (10) AAU basketball teams and four (4) USPAV girls’ volleyball teams. U-TURN U-18 girls’ volleyball team has been nationally ranked for the past few years. Don Gresham, Director of U-TURN Volleyball and iconic coach in the volleyball world, has helped to send an unprecedented 100 girls to college since 1998.
U-TURN Warrior AAU basketball player expresses how U-TURN has made a difference in
her life both spiritually and athletically.
“When I first came to U-TURN Sports Performance Academy a few years ago, my life was totally different than how it is now. I have grown so much- not only with basketball, but in my spiritual walk as well. The trainers have turned into mentors, and the athletes have turned into friends.
Walking into the doors of U-TURN feels like entering my second home. I spend about five days there during the week, and I never get sick of it. I eat there, I do my homework there, and I relax there, but every day, I learn something new about my sport, my religion, and myself. The bible studies we participate in are directed towards athletes, so we can easily take what we learn to heart because it is taught in a way that we can understand. The skills we are taught are all linked to the Bible including leadership, partnership, integrity, and friendship (just to name a small few). I’ve taken each of those skills and put them to work with the support of my trainers and coaches. For example, I have become a leader in our community through my work with the Community Outreach Council, where I serve as co-chairman and take action in U-TURN’s community service activities. This just shows that everything we learn is important and used in our day-to-day lives.
No matter your athletic ability or your knowledge of the Bible, you always feel accepted and welcome at U-TURN. Everyone is always smiling and so easy to talk to. I’ve learned so much, and I’m really grateful that I have found a place like U-TURN. It has truly changed me in so many ways for the better.”
Holly Chapman, Basketball, AAU Basketball, COC
In addition to the athletic training and team sports and seasonal camps, U-TURN’s commitment extends into the neighborhoods. It connects young people to each other and to a greater purpose in the larger world through a transformational community outreach model that builds on faith through sports. U-TURN commits to community outreach and physical education support services for diverse populations such as home-school, special needs and behavioral needs students in partnership with like-minded organizations, like the Special Olympics, St. Joseph’s Villa, Partnership for the Future, Richmond Public Schools, Richmond Juvenile Detention Center, just to name a few.
As a part of “U-TURN on the Go”, Coach Gresham and his volleyball assistants travelled to Claflin University, a small Division II school in Orangeburg, South Carolina and ran a weekend long skill based and team camp for 30 junior high to college age students this past spring.
In partnership with a U-TURN alumnus who joined the Peace Corp, U-TURN outreach efforts extended into Guinea, West Africa, where U-TURN participants donated soccer balls, goalie gloves, shirts and soccer equipment for youth in Guinea.
The leadership of U-TURN recognizes that that any child who does not have nurturing support systems to help them grow into successful adults is potentially “at-risk”. Therefore, in an effort to serve more youth U-TURN has adopted a five (5) year strategic plan which seeks to increase the number of students served, from 4,171 in 2010 to 15,000 by 2016. U-TURN is uniquely positioned to help offer solutions to some of the challenges facing the youth in the community by integrating sports, faith and outreach. It empowers young people to be successful on the field with their athletic endeavors and beyond by helping them grow into successful citizens in the community who make a meaningful difference in our society.
While U-TURN is a fee based program, it seeks to offer scholarship support to help make programming available to as many students as possible. Yet, in a tough economic environment, U-TURN has not been immune to challenges that many other non-profits are facing. U-TURN continues to seek support and cultivate partnerships that will enable them to make a difference in the lives of young people.
Ultimately U-TURN aspires to create an experience where young people from diverse backgrounds can come together for athletic, recreational and service opportunities that build performance, relationships, character and a sense of community centered around Christian principles that help to grow young people into champions for life. Stop by and see for yourself!
Support U-TURN by casting your vote today and every day until September 8th at www.richmondunite.org/vote-now.
To learn more about U-TURN visit their website at www.U-TURN.org, like them on Facebook at www.facebook.com/uturnrva or follow them on Twitter at www.twitter.com/uturnrva or visit them at 2101 Maywill Street, Richmond VA 23230, (804) 358-2775.