Will Green is real.
Anyone who knows him or has read about him or come into contact with people whose lives he has impacted knows what that statement means. He’s just real. There’s no fake hustle, no shortcuts, no grandiosity. He’s just real.
What was to be a celebratory event at LaFollette High School on Tuesday turned into a raw, heartfelt, emotional tribute to one of the city’s most influential and accomplished youth mentors.
Will Green, who founded Mentoring Positives in the Darbo-Worthington neighborhood and coaches the LaFollette High School girls basketball team, was announced as one of 15 finalists in a US Cellular-sponsored contest to award youth coaches who have made a difference in their communities.
US Cellular hosted an event Tuesday to award Green with a $5,000 donation as well as celebrate the fact that members of the community voted faithfully for him to be recognized as a community coach making a difference. He’s now in the running for the grand prize — $50,000 for the school. Voting is open now until November 14 at https://www.themostvaluablecoach.com/.
With his wife and two young daughters, member of the high school basketball team he coaches, community leaders whose lives he has touched and people from the Darbo-Worthington area he has mentored looking on, Green delivered a heartfelt and warm speech in thanks to both US Cellular and the community.
“I really care about the youth that I work with,” Green told those who were assembled. “Whether it’s coaching, Mentoring Positives, I care about them. Why? Because I don’t want them to have to go through what I went through. I come from Gary, Indiana. And I don’t tell everybody the story of where I come from. But I did live in a house with no lights on and no heat and no water. That’s why I fight so hard. Because I don’t want other kids to have that feeling. So if I can get up and make a difference in one kids life, if one person is given the opportunity to be what they can be, then that’s what I’m gonna do.”
When he says that’s what he’s gonna do, he doesn’t mean from 9 in the morning until 5 in the evening. He means that’s what he’s gonna do with his entire life.
During the ceremony, a number of people got up to speak on exactly what that means. Kaleem Caire said that when he first met Will Green he couldn’t believe how authentic he seemed, as awkward as it may feel to say that about a person mentoring other people. The first thing Caire noticed was that there was no falseness about either the work Green was doing or how he went about doing it. Green had visions and dreams for his community around the Darbo-Worthington area.
Some of those dreams came true, some didn’t. A lot of things he wanted to do never came to fruition but he aimed for them anyways and still became a successful mentor to everyone in that section of the city. Whether it was organizing sports, making homemade salsa or baking pizza from scratch Green did what he could.
When violence erupted this summer like Madison has never seen before, community leaders from across the city showed up to have forums about it. Some jockeyed for position to make sure their voices were heard and their faces were seen. But when the members of the local community looked for a face in the crowd of leaders or a voice to be heard, it was Will Green’s face they searched for and his voice they sought counsel from.
When LaFollette High School needed a girls basketball coach to whip the program back into shape it was Green they sought out. Like with every other venture he’s participated in, Green put his whole heart into it.
That’s why when Green was interviewed about receiving this nomination to be one of the nation’s top 50 coaches, it was shocking to learn he has only been LaFollette’s coach for one season.
One season was all it took to make a difference in enough lives that the girls on his team, the members of the community and the local US Cellular stores to say he is a coach worthy of being honored.
Former Madison Police Chief Noble Wray addressed those gathered and spoke about the depth of Green’s commitment to making sure that the players he coaches and the other youth he mentors have positive interactions with the community, including police. Wray said that Green’s influence is so important because it enables kids to develop skills they will need to navigate a variety of issues.
On several occasions during his own speech, Will Green was choked up.
“I’m just really honored and I just wanna thank everyone for coming. I’m just at a loss for words,” Green said. “I’m just honored to be chosen as one of fifty national coaches in this contest. Mentoring Positives means a lot to me. I used my mom’s initials for it and that’s why I grind so hard for it. It’s been fourteen years but I really feel like we’re just getting started.”
After Green concluded his remarks the weight of his emotions was felt by all in attendance. He was awarded with a check from US Cellular and will advance in the national contest. He’ll have the opportunity to attend the Under Armor All-American football game in Orlando this January. One of the judges for the US Cellular national coach contest is NFL Hall of Famer Kurt Warner.
All of that is great. It’s all exciting. But it seemed to pale in contrast to the things Green was talking about going through with his youths he mentors; with his wife and daughters; with the loss of his mother that continues to galvanize him; with the weight of the needs of his community that he feels on his shoulders.
Noble Wray could see all of those things going through Green’s mind throughout the event.
“It means an awful lot,” Wray told Madison365. “When I say he’s authentic, what I mean is accessible. What I mean is there’s young people out in the community who know that he’s there, know how to get in touch with him and he passes a certain test that a lot of people don’t pass. He’s out there after 5pm. That is really important. He is the real guy and he is what you see.”