Lou Dawkins is best noted in Oklahoma for a left-corner 3 pointer that lifted the University of Tulsa past Oklahoma State and into the 1994 NCAA men’s basketball Sweet Sixteen.
Locally he may even be better known for being married to a Muskogee graduate, the former Latricia Vaughn.
As Muskogee Public Schools middle school and elementary auxiliary sports coordinator, he hopes to make his mark for a foundational step in athletics and beyond that, student development.
Dawkins was chosen by MPS’s first-year athletic director Jason Parker to head up the Rougher Youth Sports Academy, a cooperative arrangement including the Muskogee Police Department to provide year-round recreational sports programs.
This partnership will bring together both city and school officials to create an organized and dynamic mix of sports offerings.
RYSA’s aim is to bring a variety of programs to MPS students grades 4-7, then later developing to younger ages.
While the community has offerings in just about every sport, the reach is not as complete as Parker would like to see within his district.
“We’ve had coaches, like basketball, who have come up with programs, but it wasn’t the athletic department as a whole or other city officials involved,” Parker said.
“We had this in mind and when we heard that the police department was looking into doing something similar in that regard, after several meetings and outlining the logistics, we came to an agreement and feel like it’s going to be a great thing.”
Dawkins grew up and later coached high school basketball in Saginaw, Mich., before coaching collegiately at Northern Illinois and Cleveland State. One of his 16 players who signed Division I letters out of high school was Draymond Green of the Golden State Warriors.
“Saginaw is known for producing college, NFL and NBA talent and the biggest reason for that was we had a program in the elementary schools, established in the public school system,” he said.
The key to that success, he said, was developing a particular mind-set even among first graders.
“The first graders there understood the difference between wins and losses, in comparison with communities where everyone wins and every kid gets a ribbon,” he said. “The reality is, life’s not about that. It’s about competing in the work force and competing for scholarships.”
And the intent is to offer it at no charge.
“It should be free,” Dawkins said. “It’s part of growing up.”
The first offerings will be flag football, starting Sept. 21 and running until Nov. 2 at the Seventh and Eighth Grade Academy at Ben Franklin. Basketball will be offered Dec. 7 through Feb. 29 at various schools, and soccer will be offered at Ben Franklin from March 21 to April 25.
Parker said both football and soccer will be competition between students in MPS. Basketball, he said, would connect with the Indian Nations organization and while there are costs involved there, he said the intent is to cover all of that.
“There may be a travel cost but we hope to handle all of it,” he said, noting that sponsorships are welcome.
Practices will range from one to two nights a week.
Parker has handled something similar himself as elementary and middle school athletic director at Monte Cassino School in Tulsa, a job he held prior to becoming Sapulpa’s athletic director.
“We were able to develop students over a couple of seasons and get them really dedicated to sports, and grow in their skill development as well as social and emotional development,” he said. “It was there where I realized how important it was to connect with students at a younger age.
“But fast forward to (here) and it’s almost impossible for me with all that is going on to provide a good group of offerings for those age kids.”
Thus, he hired Dawkins for such a task.
“When kids aren’t being involved, it hurts them, it hurts the fabric of the community and it hurts our ability to educate them later in their matriculation toward graduation,” Dawkins said.
“Obviously just like with any kid who walks into math, English or history class, it helps to have the foundational knowledge to more easily adapt with experience of competing at various levels.”
It’s just not about winning on the field.
“We’re going to include an accountability portion between the league coordinator and our elementary principals. Something similar to where there’s an eligibility portion, there’s a behavioral portion, in order to mirror positive habits inside the school,” Dawkins said.
“You’ll see a connection between the league and the school to get used to that connection that already exists at the secondary level.”
Deputy Chief Reggie Cotton said that a cooperative effort between the Muskogee Police Department and Hilldale Public Schools was in the works, but he could not yet elaborate on the specifics.
“We’re here to serve the entire city in this manner as a public service,” he said.