SPAAT and OAL initiate athletic awards to celebrate unsung heroes of all ages for extraordinary effort.
Oakland, CA June 3, 2014 – This particular Tuesday afternoon in the library at West Oakland’s McClymonds High School, Michael Peters advises student athletes to complete their homework, make use of the course study packets provided for year-end finals, and arrive on time for athletic practice. Peters, a California native who grew up in this part of the city and graduated from this very same high school, is known as “coach” by most here and, after nearly a quarter of century of developing young athletes, he has finally received his just desserts.
Yet the accolades heaped upon the football and track-and-field coach last week seem barely to have fazed him, something evident in the way he shies away from media interviews about the public recognition. Still, Peters delights in sharing his family legacy as McClymonds graduates (his mother and father attended McClymonds; he is a McClymonds graduate, as are his children, whose mother also attended McClymonds) and he applauds the Student Program for Academic and Athletic Transitioning with helping ease the paperwork burden while assisting young athletes with college preparation support and overall academic assistance.
“When I first started coaching, I was just coming back to help. Who would ever think I would be here this long?” Peters said. For 23 years an assistant coach and now just completing his first year as head coach, Peters added: “I guess it’s just the love of the game and the love for this school. It’s the ‘Mac Family’: that’s what we call it. That’s what keeps me going.”
The lifelong Oakland resident earned the “OAL Coach of the Year” honor on May 28 at the first ever Oakland Athletic League ESPY Awards presented by SPAAT. Cited for his exceptional performance in football and track-and-field events, as well as his professional contributions of time, service and dedication to the coaching profession, Peters was flabbergasted when presented the trophy. “I was actually in shock. I was just coming from the track-and-field championships, and I got there a little late. It was a shocker. I really wasn’t prepared for that and didn’t even have a speech,” Peters said days afterward in a telephone interview.
A time to celebrate student athletes along with coaches, the OAL ESPY awards acknowledge young sports stars who shine in the classroom as well as on the field. Akintudne Ahmad of Oakland Technical High School and Monica Lockett of Castlemont High School each earned college scholarships respectively as OAL Male Student Athlete of the Year and OAL Female Student Athlete of the Year. Other awards went to members of the 2013-14 all-academic team, students recognized as most valuable player, and noted sports agent Aaron Goodwin, a graduate of Skyline High School. Goodwin delivered the keynote speech and received the OAL Alumni Outstanding Achievement award.
The Excellence in Sports Performance Yearly idea began in discussions among representatives from SPAAT, OAL and the ACES Foundation. Organizers say the OAL ESPY Awards ceremony will be an annual extravaganza designed specifically to recognize those students who succeed despite enduring some of life’s most difficult challenges and daunting hurdles. Based on this year’s standing-room attendance at the Washington Inn, future events clearly call for bigger venues.
With events such as the ESPY gala showcasing the best in urban student athletes, the dialogue about Oakland youth is bound to change, Peters and others says, especially with people like Aaron Goodwin, NFL Arizona Cardinals player Lorenzo Alexander, OAL Commissioner Russell White and SPAAT Executive Director Harold Pearson contributing their talent, time and resources.
“These kids need somebody in their life to help them get around some of the things they have to get around,” Peters said, explaining the reasons he has yet to retire. He added that most lack father figures in the home. “They endure some of the toughest things: you’ve got kids who’ve actually seen death, kids who don’t have food at the house. I have had kids who got put out and stayed with me a couple of days,” he continued. “A kid lost a child. I’ve seen a lot of things coming from these kids. We are not only coaches, we are counselors and mentors."