Carver Center's new lead uses sports to connect with youths

  • Ronnie Mason is the new recreation and sports lead at the Carver Center. (photo by Liza Mitchell)
    Ronnie Mason is the new recreation and sports lead at the Carver Center. (photo by Liza Mitchell)

Growing up in a single parent household near one of the biggest projects in Durham, N.C., Ronnie Mason developed a passion for sports that gave him focus and helped him stay out of trouble. As Carver Center’s new recreation and sports lead, the former football and basketball player works to instill that mindset into a new generation of young athletes in the Jacksonville Beach community.
“It’s about developing our sports program, integrating the kids and keeping them active with positive energy,” said Mason. “Right now, it’s football. We’ve done basketball in the past. Softball, kickball, all the recreational sports.”
Initially, Mason dreamed of a career as a professional athlete. But after four years of playing college football, “I got tired of everyone in my hometown asking me what I was doing with football,” he said. “I was ready to put it behind me and concentrate on who I was and what was next. My biggest passion is using sports to break the ice for everything else. My training company was a great way for me to get in the teenagers heads and figure out what they’re doing, why they do what they do. I’m just trying to give them an alternative earlier rather than later.”
As the owner of a training company and co-owner of a gym, Mason offers a vision to impressionable adolescents who may be struggling to find their own place in the world. Having a nurturing mother, grandmother, and uncle gave Mason the foundation he needed for success.
“I’ve always put mentors in my life,” Mason said, “without them even knowing they were that person I was turning to, to keep me out of trouble.”
Supervisor Latoya Thomas also sees the Carver Center as providing a safe and positive environment for kids as well as adults in the community.
“When you have centers like this, it gives them something to do and you also have that sense of family,” Thomas said. “The kids know they can come in here and get motherly love from Miss LaToya and tough, brotherly love from Ronnie, or Officer Maxwell or Officer Cooper. They know this is a safe environment.”
Mason said sports taught him valuable lessons about the benefit of hard work, discipline and the grind.
“Sports changed my life and it saved my life. It kept me out of trouble and it gave me an outlet to focus my anger. I’ve never been suspended from school. I’ve never been in the back of a cop car,” he said.
“When I was a teenager, we used to go to this place called Night Flight at a community center called Campus Hill and we played basketball from 8 p.m. to midnight every Friday night. By the time we’d leave, you’re so tired all you can think of is a burger from Burger King and going to sleep. Those that stayed outside smoking weed, they were the ones that got in trouble. As long as there is more positivity going on in your life and in your circle, you don’t have to worry about the other stuff.”