KC Blue Devils Youth Sport Association is Making a Difference
By day, Lee’s Summit resident Bill Birmingham works as a Service Delivery Manager for IBM. However, four times per week plus one day on the weekend, he relishes his role as the founder and coach of the Kansas City Blue Devils Youth Sport Association. The organization touches the lives of 100-150 local urban youth per year, giving them an opportunity to enjoy athletics while teaching them a sense of organization, leadership skills and personal responsibility.
Birmingham had been coaching semi pro football for many years, working with adults who came out of college and wanted to play. However, he came to realize that he wanted to use his energy and knowledge of sports to help inner city kids who were in need of mentoring and guidance, while also providing them with a positive role model. He developed programs geared towards children from ages 5 thru 14. Birmingham has been coaching 8th grade football since 2004, which led to the creation KC Blue Devils football team. He started coaching track in 2010 so there would be a sport in which girls could also participate year round, to be productive with their time. The girls’ program is called the Pure Talent Elite team.
Members for both teams are found either by word of mouth, distributing flyers around KC and Raytown, going directly to the parents, or if a school principal approves, handing out flyers at schools. The KC Blue Devils football team plays against other area club level teams in the Central Midwest Conference. There is even a flag football team for the 5-6 year olds. The track team completes in AAU National Youth Sports which is part of the USA Track & Field Association (USATF), and those teams are also divided by age groups. Both organizations compete at national events.
Birmingham works alongside several volunteer coaches and administrators. He says in youth sports you have to be in it for the right reasons. Volunteers must have the desire to help the kids, but also realize they will face many challenges. His colleagues provide not only their time, but financial assistance as well. The organization pays out of pocket to supply the athletes with equipment, jerseys and snacks, as well as covering the costs for competition fees and providing rides when needed. The organization’s yearly budget is approximately $10,000, and they are hoping to have non-profit status soon.
Giving the students structure and a place to participate is important in order to keep them from getting in trouble. This is especially important during the summer months when they have plenty of free time but no place meaningful to go. Birmingham says one of his most significant memories is picking up a child for a game which lasted throughout the day, and finding out that while they were away there was a drive-by shooting nearby. Had the child been home, he may have been an innocent bystander who was injured or killed. He also feels gratified when former students of the program contact him years later to tell him of their successes in college and in life, and credit those successes to the strong support network they received from Birmingham’s programs.
In addition to helping the kids in Kansas City, Birmingham is also part of an active family. He and his wife, Tamika, have lived in Lee’s Summit since 2005 and have four children. He says the family all thoroughly enjoy outside play. Oldest daughter Shelby (12) is a cross country runner who was nationally ranked in the 400m event. Daughters Kennedy (9) and Jaimy (7) are both medal winners in track, and their son Jackson (5) also enjoys running. They love bike riding, walking in all of the local parks, and playing freeze tag in their backyard.