Coaching success

Ruby sees kids reach new levels of maturity through sports

-Messenger photo by Joe Sutter Volunteer Coach Drew Ruby talks with J.R. Stubbs at AFES recently, while Orian Larson, left, and Omar Johnson practice in the foreground. Boys in the fifth- through seventh-grade group were practicing offense drills for their tournament this weekend.

Drew Ruby has coached recreational leagues before. But now at Athletics for Education and Success, he’s coaching teams on a more competitive stage.

The sports are serious, but of course winning the game isn’t the main goal. As a volunteer coach, Ruby also serves as a mentor to young people.

“It’s a lot of mentorship,” Ruby said. “That’s the main goal of AFES, making sure they succeed as young men and not just as athletes.”

Ruby coaches basketball as well as football. He usually works with sixth grade, but during the summer months when numbers are down he’s got a team of fifth through seventh grades.

And during the year, this can mean a lot of volunteer hours.

“Usually I’m here two days a week, Tuesday/Thursday or Monday/ Wednesday,” Ruby said. “We have some league nights, and that’s another day. And that’s not including tournaments on the weekends.

“There could be times I am involved out here on five out of seven days.”

That happens in both football and basketball, he said.

Ruby said he’s lucky enough to have an 8 to 4:30 job, leaving him time to work with the kids after work.

“I always had wanted to coach,” Ruby said.

A Fort Dodge Senior High graduate, Ruby coached rec leagues while at college. He moved back to Fort Dodge after a few years of working in Nebraska.

Then he heard about AFES through an ad, or a news story, and called up Director Charles Clayton.

AFES, a nonprofit organization, began its goal of helping kids athletically and academically in 2004 and has expanded its program ever since.

Ruby been a volunteer since summer 2014.

“This was the perfect place for me to volunteer at,” he said. “I’ve always been a big supporter of sports building character. This was the perfect platform. I love that Charles, he’s academics and building your character first, but he does it through sports.”

Ruby said the best thing is watching the students grow, not only on the basketball court or football field, but as people.

“I don’t have much trouble connecting with the kids. I mean, it might take a couple practices,” he said. “There are quite a few kids that will come to AFES and they might not really be interested in basketball or football, they’re kind of doing it just to stay out of trouble.

“That can be difficult getting kids to practices or games, just because the lack of rides, or sometimes kids don’t even have shorts or basketball shoes to practice with.”

“Maturity is something you can really see,” he added. “Sometimes you’ll have somebody that just played league ball — which is kind of just for fun, just learning the basics — and I’ve gotten them to play travel ball, which is a lot more serious. You’re not guaranteed a certain amount of time to play.

“They’ve ended up going from starting off on the bench to leading a team, and that’s with their emotions also — being vocal and being a leader.”