MEMS athletics program brings pride to students



by Rebecca Burylo
42nd Air Base Wing Public Affairs


1/24/2014 - MAXWELL AIR FORCE BASE, Ala. -- Seventh and eighth grade students at Maxwell Elementary/Middle School have something to call their own after the introduction of the school's first-ever competitive athletics program.

Last year, the graduating class was asked what was missing from their school. They voiced the need for athletics, and MEMS administration listened.

Now the new boys' basketball team and girls' cheerleading squad have given youth pride in their school this academic year, according to Ryan Smith, MEMS' athletic director.

"The athletic program is really an integral part of the whole education experience," Smith said. "It builds character and gives the kids a sense of belonging. Athletics is something that's only theirs, and they've taken ownership of it."

Michael Pace, an eighth-grade forward on the basketball team, said he's excited to play on the newly formed team.

"It's kind of like I represent my school when I play. I enjoy it," Pace said.

MEMS played three total games this season against local private schools. Their last game Friday was played at home against Lighthouse Christian Academy.

The cheerleading squad inspired the athletes beforehand with a pep rally and encouraged students, teachers and parents to come out and support the team.

Under volunteer coach Candace Williams, the squad has dived into their practices, executing flips, stunts and cheers for MEMS at pep rallies and each of the basketball games.

The location of practices was the biggest convenience for Daria Selkirk, an eighth-grader on the squad.

"I don't have to travel to different places," Selkirk explained. "I usually do a lot of activities, so we'd have to go off base to take music classes, across base to do soccer and then to the youth center for other things, so it's easier to have something here."

Williams cannot be more proud of her squad's performances.

"It's been amazing, these girls are miraculous, they are so talented and they work very hard," Williams said.

Likewise, Prentice Tucker, volunteer coach of the basketball team, enjoys mentoring his young team in a sport he has loved for most of his life.

"I played high school basketball. I could've played college ball, but I became active-duty military and played awhile then," Tucker said.

"Now I'm in the Reserve and coach the 908th Airlift Wing basketball team while teaching these guys some of the stuff I learned growing up."

Smith is hopeful the coming years will provide more games, more athletes and more sports for both girls and boys.

"Along with competitive teams, we're going to start having club teams. We're hoping to gain club activities in golf, tennis, running and possibly flag football," Smith said.