Team Beaufort began in 2001 when a gentle bear-of-a-guy decided to do what he could to keep youngsters from making bad decisions. Not so easy a task when you consider all of the media influences, peer pressure, and pervasive short-of-income situations. But that is exactly what Coach Ray Jones took on when he started Team Beaufort.
There are many things that make Team Beaufort a stand-out organization but most of them revolve around Ray himself. The team members consider him tough but fair. He has very high standards for the young men and women who are part of Team Beaufort. First, there is the weight lifting itself. It isn’t just ordinary weight lifting, it is Olympic Style Weight Lifting and there is a difference. Right there, these kids have a goal that is attainable – Olympics. For many of Ray’s protégés who have never been out of Beaufort let alone the state of South Carolina, this is almost too much to even imagine. But a young man who trains with Ray is doing just that – C.J. Cummings who is followed closely by his older brother Omar. These two remarkable athletes started with Ray when they were 10 years old. They are now 14 and 17 and it looks like C.J. is headed to the Olympics in Rio in 2016. Terms like National Champion, World Record Holder, and Genuinely Good Guys seem to be the monikers of the Cumming’s brothers. How much of this is due to Team Beaufort? You have to ask them, but their commitment to Ray and his coaching says much.
One of the things that make Team Beaufort and Olympic Style Weight Lifting unique is that pretty much everybody can do it. You don’t have to have exceptional eye/hand coordination like you do in baseball or super speed like you do in track or football to a weight lifter. You simply have to be dedicated to getting better. And that means showing up at the Beaufort Middle School gym 4 or 5 times a week for a training session that lasts about 1 ½ hours. These workouts build strength but they also work on flexibility and “core” development as both are integral to successful weight lifting.
But being on Team Beaufort also has some additional requirements – Coach Ray’s Rules. There are three pieces to Ray’s Rules that touch on the whole life of each child. First, they need to get the necessary points in local and regional qualifying meets to keep competing at higher and higher levels. Next, Ray wants to see everybody’s report card. But, for Ray, it isn’t about getting good grades. It is all about what the comments have to say. Improving, trying hard, having a good attitude, helpful, etc. are all adjectives that Ray looks for. If you are slacking off at school and not giving it your 110%, then Team Beaufort isn’t for you. And then there are the conversations with the family. Team members need to be well behaved at home (and elsewhere for that matter), willing to do what a parent asks without a lot of back talk and contribute positively to the family and their community as well. Coach Ray sums it up by saying, “The young people in my program are not only challenged physically, they gain life lessons, competitive spirit, improvement in grades, behavior, behavior, learn goal setting, improve self-esteem, adjust attitude if necessary, and overall conditioning. Participation in the program is based solely on willingness to try, learn & work hard without regards to race, creed, gender, age, size or ability”.
But if you can do all that, then Ray and his Team will help you achieve your dreams. Ray says, “All I really want to do is make kids into good and responsible members of our community – to eliminate bad choices.” And that is what we want Ray to do as well. Ok, maybe launch a superstar every so often just to keep it interesting.
When asked if there were Team members in the pipeline who will be the next C.J. Cummings, Ray responded immediately, “You bet. There are several youngsters who have the potential to go all the way to the top and do it at an earlier age than the Cumming’s brothers.” Seriously?
The First Presbyterian Church of Beaufort has several members who have recognized what a positive difference Coach Ray and Team Beaufort can make on the life of a child. For several years now, the Church’s Endowment Fund has contributed to the travel expenses of the Team. And they did again this year. Owen Hand said, “These are men of the Church who support what Ray Jones is doing with Team Beaufort for the benefit of Beaufort’s youth.” Collectively, these men, who mostly workout with Ray at the Carolina Sportscare and Physical Therapy Gym, enjoy hearing about life changing experiences that happen to Team members — like seeing the Grand Canyon for the first time or how participating in the Nationals in Minneapolis next month will totally change a Team members outlook and personal goals. Minneapolis is a far cry from Beaufort and competition at that level brings a whole new perspective about how big the world really is and their place within that world.
Ray was a “troubled teen” as he describes himself. But for those who work with him now, the only trouble will be for the competitors who hear the thunder rumble a challenge. Lookout world. Here comes Team Beaufort!