Photo courtesy of Sharn Muffet
JACKSONVILLE Fla.— Jacksonville University alumni, Ashanti Williams, was a competitor on the basketball court and in the classroom.
After graduating in 2008 as a Division I athlete with a degree in communications, Williams went on to become a teacher, coach, mentor, and businesswoman.
Following her passion for basketball and communication, Williams decided to start a non-profit organization, Gameface 4:13 Training Academy.
The organization’s name comes from a story from Williams’s childhood combined with a biblical reference.
“When I would compete, my mother would help me get in the zone and would say ‘show me your game face Ashanti’ and I would turn and show a fierce look of fearlessness and competitiveness,” said Williams.
The biblical verse refers to Philippians 4:13, which reads “I can do all things through him who strengthens me.”
Gameface 4:13 Training Academy focuses on mentoring youth. Their mission is to train young men and women in three pillars. They aim to develop and strengthen children physically, mentally, and spiritually through the game of basketball.
As a former Jacksonville athlete, Williams understands the importance of physical training to gain an advantage over your opponent.
However, she wanted to include academic and spiritual programming that would go beyond the lines of the basketball court and teach valuable life lessons to the youth. Some topics include character development, treatment of others, and moral values that are discussed between the children and their mentors.
“I recognized the value of building up young people on a holistic level,” said Williams. “We see players who are great at basketball but are struggling academically so by introducing STEM-based programs in a sports curriculum we can blend their passion for sports to their learning.”
Gameface 4:13 Training Academy aims to provide learning services that the youth can relate to and get excited about.
In Williams’ experience, taking the same lessons taught in a classroom and teaching them in a new environment is a much more efficient way of learning for the kids attending her camps.
“Research through surveys shows the kids are coming out of our program showing more discipline, attention to their teachers, and the ability and will to set goals,” said Williams.
Spiritually, Gameface 4:13 Training Academy looks to implement biblical principles in their curriculum as well as devote time for community service and mission trips.
Williams says that by learning to serve others, the children are not only becoming better individuals but better people in society.
“We teach our children to be leaders,” said Williams. “Not just go with the crowd but stand out.”
Le’Serone Smith is an award-winning Gospel recording artist and filmmaker. He was a guest speaker during one of their spring sessions in March.
Smith says that talking about his relationship with Jesus Christ was important to the youth, as it opens up the discussion of God which can have a large impact on their life.
“I believe that sharing this information was very important because no matter what field you pursue to work in, or stage of life you’re currently living in, these topics will come up and knowing what to do and how to do it will be very beneficial,” said Smith.
In Smith’s opinion, Gameface 4:13 Training Academy exceeds expectations when it comes to the depth of care they put into each child they mentor.
“They actually spend time with kids on a personal level, and follow their individual progress in life,” said Smith. “That’s a rare and special mission.”
According to the testimonies page on the Gameface 4:13 Training Academy website, Felicia Harris was highly impressed with the services of the camp that her son attended.
“Gameface 4:13 has been one of the best basketball camps I have enrolled my son in,” wrote Harris. “The leadership is unmatched and the quality of care they put into each individual child is amazing.”
Children enrolled in middle school and high school are welcomed to attend the camps that run throughout the year. There are camps scheduled in December, March, and during the Summer break period.
Being the founder of Gameface 4:13 Training Academy, Williams has created her dream job and has seen it grow from just an idea to a functioning organization that has begun to make an impact in Jacksonville.
She says that to see others grow and achieve their goals brings her the greatest amount of joy.
“That’s what I was created to do, to coach people and help them develop, so it’s a really cool opportunity.”