Columbia man is helping make extracurricular sports affordable

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COLUMBIA - Anthony Johnson has lived in Columbia his whole life. During his childhood, he didn’t have the chance to play sports after school.

“I was one of the underserved kids growing up,” Johnson said. “I missed out on so many opportunities and experiences.”

He said his single mother couldn’t afford for him to participate in extracurriculars. His goal now is for Columbia’s youth to have the opportunity he never had. He founded Columbia Supreme last September. The league specifically gives underprivileged girls a chance to be on a basketball team.

“This is the exact program I wish I would have existed when I was growing up,” Johnson said.

Before Columbia Supreme existed, Johnson stepped in during a coaching change for his nephew’s basketball team. The team started doing better in terms of their record and their attitudes. That’s when Johnson said he realized half of the picture was missing.

“I had a couple people say, ‘I wish some of the girls had the same opportunity,” Johnson said. “I knew there was a barrier because there weren’t a lot of teams for them to play on, and then I also saw a lot of people just couldn’t afford it. I just tried to figure out a way I could help with that.”

Being on the team costs $500 for an entire year, which Johnson said is cheaper than the majority of other basketball teams for just one semester. The Day Dreams Foundation also helps many girls with half of the cost.

“We have to be here for the kids,” said Rashekii Howard, Columbia Supreme’s assistant director. “There’s a lot of coaches and stuff that are in this for the money. That’s not what we do. We’re in it to make the kids better.”

Howard used to run her own girls’ basketball league, but it didn’t attract as many players as she hoped. She knew Johnson through the basketball circuit. When he asked her to help him start Columbia Supreme, she said it was his character that convinced her to accept the offer.

“He had tryouts, and he had an overwhelming number of kids to come,” Howard said. “That’s just his presence in the community. He had all of the characteristics I was looking for, and it was like a no-brainer when he asked me to come and join him.”

Columbia Supreme has grown to have four girls teams with players ranging in age from elementary school through high school. One player said she looks up to Anthony not only as a coach, but also as a role model in life.

“He gives advice on how to get better,” said Ealynne Bostick, a player on the third-grade team. “I want to be good like him and do everything like him.”

Johnson said the lessons learned within Columbia Supreme extend beyond the basketball court.

“The kids just love it,” Johnson said. “They can’t wait to come to practice. They’ll call me on their days off. It’s just really rewarding for them, whether they want to learn to get better at basketball or they just don’t have anybody.”

Johnson said Columbia Supreme is a group effort, and he hopes to continue letting more girls into the league.

“I think it’s important like with any aspect in life, we don’t just say it, but we show that girls are capable of achieving anything just like boys are,” Johnson said.

Columbia Supreme practices several times during the week and travels to tournaments on the weekends. Johnson said he tries to help the players with everything from uniforms to rides. If you'd like to support Columbia Supreme, visit their website.