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Press Releases

Wednesday, August 23, 2006
No. 70

What Did You Do This SummerΑ New York City’s Youth Trained In Parks By Professional Athletes

This summer, thousands of young New Yorkers signed up to participate in the Department of Parks & Recreation’s wide array of summer sports programs. All were supervised by knowledgeable and dedicated staff…and some can say they were coached by a former Olympian, a world record holder or an NBA player.

"The athletic and fitness programs offered through Parks & Recreation give children an opportunity to develop both mentally and physically," said Parks Commissioner Adrian Benepe. "These sports programs foster confidence, discipline, and healthy habits that can last a lifetime. We're proud to have such talented athletes train and mentor our community's children."

Parks & Recreation boasts a slew of accredited coaches who have often traveled the world as professional athletes and then returned to the neighborhoods and parks of their youth. They are committed to their sport and a healthy lifestyle, as well as sharing these skills and habits with today’s youth.

"I saw a great opportunity to teach children the sport that I love in a wonderful Parks facility," said Olympic cyclist Deirdre Murphy. "It is rewarding to teach them teamwork and goal-setting in an environment of fun and fair play. I get tremendous satisfaction from seeing smiles on the children’s faces."

"I learned how to play fair, work hard and not give up," said Caleed Williams, age 9, a participant in the Sports Experience Program at Detective Keith Williams Park in Queens. "Coach Richard [James] had a lot of patience and made everything fun."

A whole generation of new athletes took to the tracks, fields, courts and pools of their local parks this summer. Many experienced athletes awaited them, eager to pass on their knowledge and expertise.


Former professional basketball player Steve Carney taught kids at Haffen Park to shoot, scrimmage and score in the Sports Experience basketball program. Carney played professional basketball across Europe for 12 years, including time with the Portuguese Basketball Federation. In 2003, he was inducted into the Northeastern Hall of Fame.

Also at Haffen Park’s Sports Experience program, undefeated professional boxer, Julio Cardenas a.k.a. El Torero, shared his knowledge of health and fitness as the fitness instructor.

Geoff Huston, Center Manager at St. Mary’s Recreation Center, played eight seasons in the NBA, including a season with the New York Knicks. He joined Parks & Recreation 10 years ago as a way to give back to the community. During his time with Parks, he has held various posts from Playground Associate to Sports Coordinator to Deputy Manager to his current position as Center Manager, where he oversees all programming and maintenance of the center.


Former NBA player Greg Jackson is Center Manager at the Brownsville Recreation Center and coaches intramural basketball. He played for the New York Knicks and Phoenix Suns.

Brooklyn native, James "Fly" Williams first shot hoops on Brooklyn’s playgrounds before becoming a professional basketball player for the ABA’s Spirits of Saint Louis. He was later drafted by the NBA’s Philadelphia 76ers. Now a Playground Associate, Williams coaches basketball clinics around the borough.


Richard James, a member of the 2004 Jamaican Olympic track team, sent youth sprinting as the track instructor for Detective Keith Williams’ Sports Experience program. James was also a gold medal winner at the 2004 Indoor World Track & Field Championships and a 2003 NCAA All-American. Dedicated to health and fitness, he also holds a Masters degree in Exercise Physiology and a B.S. in Sports Science and Exercise and Physiology, and works as the Assistant Track and Field Coach at Long Island University.

Instructor, Executive Director and Founder of the Star Track Program at the Kissena Velodrome, Deidre Murphy was the first woman cyclist to represent Ireland in the Olympics in 2000. While working on Wall Street, she began racing in Central Park and today is a World Masters Champion and seven-time medalist, two-time the US National Masters Champion, and 11-time medalist and four-time New York State Champion. She holds an USA Cycling Level II license and also acts a commentator.

A lifetime Queens resident, Arthur Drechsler, has been sharing his knowledge and skills as a weightlifter with participants of Lost Battalion Hall’s weightlifting program for 40 years. In 1970 he set three Junior World Records—no male weightlifter from the US has set a Junior or Senior World Record since. He was also a member of US World Team for weightlifting. He has coached athletes such as National Champion and Olympian Jerry Hannan and Women’s World Champion Karyn Marshall. Drechsler is also the author of The Weightlifting Encyclopedia.


Sports Experience provides teens (ages 13-15) with intensive sequential training and skill development in several sports—including track, fitness, basketball and others depending on the facilities at each of the three parks where the pilot program was offered. In its first year, the program aims to provide quality athletics and fitness programming to teens in high-need neighborhoods that previously lacked formal teen programs.

Star Track was founded in 2004 as a year-round afterschool track cycling program at Vissena Velodrome in Queens. Trained instructors teach kids ages 9-13 the principles of bicycle riding and racing, as well as teamwork, and enhance physical and psychological development, including lessons in nutrition.

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