When we made it our mission in 2012 to change the future of Oklahoma City by giving underserved kids more opportunities to play team sports, we only dreamed our collective efforts would lay the foundation for a sweeping movement across our city.
Today, city leaders and community partners from every corner of OKC see what we’ve always believed – The Future Plays Here.
In the last decade, our fields and playing surfaces have placed thousands of kids on a better path in life, and we’re just scratching the surface.
One of those kids is Daryen Jefferson from Douglass High School.
Daryen is a multi-sport athlete whose sports career started at a young age. Over the years, sports have taught him valuable lessons about character and discipline that he is now passing down to his young siblings.
In this OKCPS student-athlete interview, Daryen gives us some insight into the impact that sports have had on his life and how increased opportunities to join a team have helped him stay on the right track.
What is your name, and what school do you go to?
My name is Daryen Jefferson, and I go to Douglass High School.
What sports do you play?
I run cross-country and track and play basketball.
How long have you played sports?
I’ve been playing sports since I was four years old, so 12 years.
Why are sports important to you?
They have taught me character and discipline and that you can always get better. They’ve also given me an outlet when times are harder.
What was your biggest sports goal or dream when you were younger?
When I was younger, I wanted to play in the NBA.
Is that goal different now? If so, how?
Yes. Now that I’ve started running cross-country and track, I would love to go to the Olympics.
Tell us about your earliest sports memory.
My earliest sports memory is from elementary school when I remember going to big basketball tournaments with my basketball team.
Tell us about your favorite sports memory.
My favorite sports memory is just recently qualifying for state in cross-country.
What impact has playing sports had on your life?
Sports have helped me develop the character that I have today, and now I know they are something that can pay for my college.
How has it impacted the people around you?
Playing sports has had an impact on my little sibling because they’ve all started playing sports. I’m helping them with the sports they play now.
How have sports kept you more focused in the classroom or made you a better student?
Sports have made me a better student by teaching me to use the same focus in the classroom that I have during my workouts.
Do you think your focus on sports has helped you avoid trouble or bad choices? How?
Yes, without a doubt, sports have helped me stay out of trouble and make better decisions.
Tell us about a lesson you learned from playing sports that you can apply elsewhere in life.
Playing sports has taught me that, with hard work and determination, you can always get better.
Finish this sentence: A team is…
A team is a family running or working together for the same goal.
Give an example of how a team or teammate has been a positive influence in your life.
I was in a race, and I was running bad when my teammate uplifted me and motivated me to run better.
Give an example of how you have helped your team or a teammate.
I helped make my team and teammates better by running with them during the summer.
Can you provide an example or story about how a coach has been a positive influence in your life?
Coach Ryan has helped me get out of my head before very important races so I could relax and run with confidence without overthinking.
How important is it for young athletes to have access to quality athletic fields and facilities?
Quality athletic fields are important because they’re safer to play on. The wear and tear on your body is better when you play on good fields, courts, or tracks.
How does it feel knowing there are people all over Oklahoma City that you’ve never met rooting for you and investing in your school and community?
Hearing that gives me the strength to dig deep and keep working when I don’t want to. It’s also encouraging because I’m always working hard to represent God, my family, and my community.
Where would you be today if you didn’t play sports?
If I wasn’t playing sports, I would be in church.
What is your biggest life/career goal or dream? (This does not have to be sports-related.)
After I’m done with sports, I want to be a preacher and a chiropractor.
Imagine it’s 10 or 20 years in the future; what words of advice or encouragement would you give to a young student-athlete standing in the same shoes you are today?
God is with you, so don’t be afraid to be different. He didn’t make you to be the same as everyone else for a reason.