Jesse Massey is one of several former and current area coaches helping program administrator Robert Skinner host the 36th annual National Youth Sports Program at Albany State.
ALBANY — Jesse Massey grew up in one of the roughest parts of Albany back in the 1960s and ’70s and was dangerously close to turning to a life of crime.
Now he is a retired teacher and coach who framed the future of children for over three decades — and he said he wouldn’t be where he is today without the National Youth Sports Program.
“I benefited from that program,” Massey said. “It kept me from a life of crime. Without that program and without my mom instilling in me as a young kid to do something like that, I wouldn’t be where I am sitting right now.”
Massey, whose coaching and teaching stops included Dougherty High School and Albany Middle School, is one of several former and current area coaches helping program administrator Robert Skinner host the 36th annual National Youth Sports Program at Albany State.
The camp starts Monday and runs through July 6, and Skinner said there are plenty of openings left for children ages 9-16.
“If parents have children who aren’t participating in anything this summer, NYSP is a great program,” said Skinner, who is the women’s basketball, softball and volleyball coach at ASU. “It primarily started as an instructional sports program. We were teaching swimming, basketball, softball, golf, soccer, creative dance and tennis, but with kids struggling so much academically we added an enrichment program.”
Skinner continued: “There is a math and science component, an English component and a drug and alcohol prevention and enrichment program.”
Massey was 18-years-old when he attended the first NYSP at ASU 36 years ago. He was hired the next summer as a worker and has seen over 20,000 children come through the program at ASU in the past three decades.
“I remember seeing it in the newspaper, and I walked across the bridge and registered,” Massey said. “And I’ve been there ever since.”
Because of a loss of nearly all funding, registration for the program will cost ($100) for the first time in 36 years.
But Skinner said local sponsors have stepped up and donated enough money to provide 100 scholarships for children who can’t afford the registration fee — and around 85 scholarships are still available.
“The scholarships are between 50 and 100 dollars to help assist those kids to come to the program,” said Skinner, who has been involved with the program for 22 years. “The kids will have to pass a physical and fill out the paper work, but those are the only requirements.”
The East Albany Medical Center provides free physical exams, and ASU is a major contributor to the program, which Massey said is one of the finest around.
“I want this program to survive,” he said. “You gotta give kids something to occupy their time, if you want to stop building onto the jail and putting something into the children. This (camp) makes a difference because it’s for the children who can’t afford the other ones.”