One of the main influences on my basketball career, and one of the most critical people in helping me play at the collegiate level, is a man by the name of Alex Austin. If you don’t know who he is, it is time you found out.
Austin is a former professional basketball player (and brother of former Jazzman Ike Austin) who has founded a basketball program in Utah known as A-Train for Youth. Austin used to travel around the country running basketball camps and clinics with other professional players, but was persuaded by his wife, Beckie, to run camps throughout Utah, which is where she is from and where the couple lives today. Alex and his wife felt that the clinics and camps being run throughout the country were much too costly for some aspiring hoopsters to attend. There were so many children out there who could benefit from participation in sports but were excluded due to their family’s financial concerns – something Alex and Beckie wanted to change.
The concept began as simply basketball camps, but then Austin started forming teams that would play in local leagues, as well as showcase tournaments in California and Las Vegas. Along with helping kids of all financial demographics play the game of basketball, Austin also began dedicating himself to training the older players in the program to play at a collegiate level.
Austin knows what it takes to get a player to the collegiate ranks, as his son Isaiah (a top recruit in the nation) will be playing basketball at Baylor University in the fall. Alex teaches players the ins and outs of having to play for a college coach, as well as what is required to get players to the next level. His love and compassion for his players is unmatched, and although he can be very tough on the players in his program, it is due to his strong desire to see them succeed. He pushes athletes to reach their full potential and learn valuable life lessons while doing so. Austin said, “In the end, all I hope for is for the happiness and success of each athlete whom I encounter and that they continually try to grow, as well as to give back to others and to the community.”
A-Train for Youth has several other factors that help separate it from other similar programs such as Utah Pump-N-Run and Metro. Austin says his program is about “life choices and future leaders.” In addition to going to practice and playing in league games and out-of-state tournaments, players in the program must maintain a certain GPA in school or they cannot compete until their GPA has reached that minimum mark. Each athlete is also required to perform a minimum of one hour of community service per week. The program puts an emphasis on basketball, but more importantly on helping athletes grow into successful human beings. Austin pushes his athletes to always lend a helping hand to those who are less fortunate or in need.
Another important aspect of Austin’s program is the relationships that he forms with his players. I stopped playing for him three years ago once I was recruited to play in college, yet Alex is still always checking up on me, seeing how I am doing and always lending his advice and wisdom. I have talked to him about everything from life at college, girl problems, and my growth as an individual in addition to all the long basketball talks about my improvement and how I am playing. Every time I am back in town, I try to make it out to practices that Alex holds for his teams, and I jump right into layup lines like I'm still a part of the team. He goes out of his way to help plan workouts for his ex-players who are at the collegiate level, and takes a heartfelt interest in their lives as they grow up into young men and women. In fact, Alex was in attendance at my cousin’s wedding this summer, and he definitely will be receiving an invite when I finally tie the knot. It is this type of coach and person who should be honored for all that he does for his players.
Austin encourages anyone and everyone to join his program, and says, “I believe each child has the ability to succeed in sport and in life but the choice must be theirs. The life lessons that we provide and community projects we help with are life-changing. That’s the difference about A-Train for Youth. A-Train isn't just a program for the top players in the state, it is for all athletes. Anyone who has the desire to play, compete and improve their skill level regardless of their abilities will find a home with A-Train.” You can get more information about Alex Austin and his program at ATrainForYouth.com. I highly recommend it, and know that I hope to remain involved in the program for years to come. So, come swing by a practice and see how you like it, and Alex will certainly welcome you with big open arms and his trademark smile.