Education alumnus champions athletics, inspires hope
Great athletic coaching set the building blocks for Wendell Covington’s future achievements.
“The coach was an anchor in my community,” said Covington, who went on to earn a master’s degree in education from the University of Missouri–St. Louis in 2001. “He was more than just the person who tells you to gear up and rush the field – he was a teacher and mentor. My parents were awesome people who gave me good examples, but in a tough environment, you need the whole village. Without good coaching, I don’t know if I would be as successful as I am.”
Covington’s reverence for athletic culture and his keen insight into the possibilities sports can create for youth made him the natural choice to lead the Mathews-Dickey Boys’ & Girls’ Club into a new era of growth.
In November, he was elected president of the organization. Founded in 1960, Mathews-Dickey Boys’ & Girls’ Club has been an institution in St. Louis city that has effected positive change in thousands of lives through the power of physical activity.
Covington intends to carry on this tradition of sportsmanship while also constructing pathways for brighter futures.
“The organization’s major goal is to impact young people in the St. Louis community, give them hope,” he said. “We want to create a college pipeline for more and more young people, using athletics as the platform, and build scholar-athletes who excel in both traditional and non-traditional sports. Seventy-five percent of corporate executives have participated in athletics, and they’ll say that resilience, persistence and their notion of teamwork all come from participation in sports.”
Besides sports staples such as baseball, basketball and football, Covington intends to expand program offerings by adding swimming, soccer and cycling to the roster.
“I’m in the process of forming a cycling team right now,” he said. “Just across the street from our main office, we have one of the only velodromes in the country. It’s an under-utilized resource that could come back in great fashion.”
While sports activities form the backbone of Mathews-Dickey Boys’ & Girls’ Club, academics are just as important.
“We use sports to engage young people, and once we have them engaged, we help them become more academically sound, especially in the areas of literacy, mathematics and writing. Strong minds and strong bodies build strong character.”
Over a 22-year career that has spanned roles such as social worker, classroom teacher and guidance counselor, Covington has seen how a little bit of concern can go a long way.
“All these young people need is a caring adult – that’s all they need. Somebody who’s focused and pays attention to them. Someone who believes in them and sets high expectations,” he said. “And once you do that, you’ll have their faith and attention – I don’t care where they come from.”
Mark Pope, Curators’ Professor and chair of the Department of Counseling and Family Therapy, believes Covington will provide understanding and sound guidance for Mathews-Dickey Boys’ & Girls’ Club.
“Wendell Covington served as my graduate assistant for one year during his MEd in Community Counseling program,” Pope said. “He is quite smart, sensitive to others and driven – all good qualities in a leader. He will do a great job.”
Years have passed, and Covington is still impressed with the level of rigor he experienced during his education at UMSL.
“UMSL has one of the best counseling programs in the area. I was exposed to so much in academics, and I attribute a lot of my professional and intellectual success to the University of Missouri system. I wanted to have the skill set and theory and methodology to engage young people, and I liked UMSL because it allowed me to discover my own talents, my own perspectives.
“With that being said, I challenged the professors a lot, and I’m sure they remember me as a student who challenged the status quo,” he said with a laugh, “but again, they gave me the latitude to pursue intellectual discourse.”
Ultimately for Covington, the success of those in his care comes first.
“For those of us who are in a helping profession, there are a myriad of challenges we face,” he said. “The community is counting on young intellectuals, professors and leaders to figure it out so we can make St. Louis a better place. And who better can remedy our situation than us? We have all of the power, all of the leadership and all of the capabilities that we need to reclaim our community. We owe it to our youth.”
More information on participating in Mathews-Dickey Boys’ & Girls’ Club activities can be found here.
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