SRV Chicago trains aspiring young athletes on and off the court

CHICAGO — James Graham founded SRV Chicago in 2019 to bridge the gap and level the playing field for local athletes. The nonprofit organization allows these high school students to practice for free every Sunday.

“My goal is for everyone here to have the opportunity to build an excellent mindset. I want them to go to college here. I want them to graduate. I want them to live outside the box,” Graham said.

Graham, himself an athlete, was a walk-on running back for Illinois State University, where he was offered a scholarship. He then had the opportunity to play for the Cincinnati Bengals and the Cleveland Browns.

“A lot of these kids want the same opportunities. You want to go pro. They want to be part of an elite group that will give them the same mindset that’s needed to take them to the next level,” he said.

Now Graham has stepped into the role of father figure and mentor to these young men.

SRV member and high school athlete Ethan Middleton chimed in, “He has a lot of fatherly talks and lets me know it’s rough on the roads, but you have something you’re doing that’s productive and makes you want to work wanting, wanting to strive to be great.”

“I am a reflection of them. I come from the same community. It gives me the benefit of being able to relate and actually understand what they’re going through,” Graham said.

But it’s not just about their game, it’s about their success on and off the pitch.

“My mindset has changed a lot, my physique, my speed. Mentally he helps me a lot. It also helps me stay off the road,” said SRV member Malik Elzy.

Graham added, “They can look at me and know that they can count on me to be here, to show up and to give them my best.”

To learn more about SRV Chicago, follow her Instagram @srvacademy. SRV Chicago trains aspiring young athletes on and off the court

Dais Johnston

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