Larry Curry is lengthy and lean, articulate and ardent, one of those rare commodities able to wheedle followers without necessarily soliciting them. He’s warm and personable, yet it’s a particular transparency he presents that gains trust. When he played basketball in high school, as a nimble swingman, it had already become apparent that the sport wouldn’t love him the way he loved it, at least not in the sense that he’d one day earn a paycheck with endless zeros.
In fact, he knew this as early as his junior year. Yet the lure of sports as a profession, with all its glamour and monetary payback, is heavy-duty, as it has long been for kids who think it’s not just the best way out of whatever situation they are in, but the only one.
During a series of interviews at Bell Helicopter, after he’d picked up his business management degree from the University of Texas at Arlington and was, you could say, “discovered” by a Bell executive who came in to purchase a cell phone and left wondering why Curry wasn’t working for the aerospace manufacturer, he recalls answering poignant life questions with equally poignant sports analogies.
He got the gig. This was no smoke and mirrors hiring strategy. Curry, now a Government Liaison at Bell, is using those sports analogies to launch an ambitious undertaking that capitalizes on the intersection of sports and life.
Metro Sports Fieldhouse is his brainchild, offering a litany of programs using sports as a tool to develop key life skills for youth. By providing programs at UTA’s Mavericks Activity Center (MAC) April through November, this relatively new non-profit slices its free offerings into part sports, part academics. There’s basketball and soccer and yoga followed by science and technology, financial literacy, health and wellness, goal setting and problem solving, all vetted through a guise of critical thinking.
“What he’s really doing is helping kids develop through sports,” says Victoria Heath, a regular volunteer. “Not develop as players but develop as people. Where else do you get that?”
Curry, the executive director, is partnering with Arlington Parks & Recreation (Metro’s Do Right At Night program was held at the Hugh Smith Recreation Center), Nike (which sends volunteers and provides him sneakers for his participants, at a discount) and UTA. Outside of Nike, his wife, Robin, sister and mother, Curry has lured 15 to 25 volunteers to help execute the programs for what is now around 60 youth, up from 15. Programs have soared from 6 to 20.
Guest speakers – like Arlington Police Chief Will Johnson – have also engaged the participants in segments designed for educational enrichment.
What always bothers Curry is how many kids interested in sports don’t receive development holistically. “So my thought was, why not kill two birds with one stone?” Curry says, “and introduce sports, but promote the physical fitness piece of it, and then introduce them to resources that help them develop academically.”
You could say it’s the old switcheroo: lure them for one thing and hit them with another. Don’t knock what works. Curry jokes about the STEM lovers coming to learn about drones and getting caught up in basketball and the ball players only wanting to hoop finding that drones are actually cool.
“What’s great is that they help one another in where their strengths are,” Curry says. “It’s a win-win.”
So far Curry is everything from chief fundraiser to marketer. Metro has been able to hit its $40,000 budget, but so much more is on the table. Like the actual fieldhouse. He doesn’t have one but is eying some land and will soon go before the Arlington City Council to try and secure it. If he does, he’ll need some deep-pocketed donors to give him some love to actually build a space that could house a few basketball courts, volleyball courts and classrooms.
“I think it’s possible,” says Curry. “I want to show kids that if you are thorough, if you are genuine, if you are prepared, you can make it happen.”
Columnist Kenneth Perkins has been a contributing writer for Arlington Today since it debuted. He is a freelance writer, editor and photographer.