Montreal·2021 Black Changemakers

This basketball coach gives kids opportunities to play sports and learn life skills

After playing for Team Canada in 1992, Trevor Williams returned to Montreal and started a basketball camp to teach kids basketball skills. Since then, his work has expanded well beyond sports.

Through his foundation, Trevor Williams is trying to ensure Montreal kids are well-rounded

Trevor Williams played for Team Canada in 1992, then returned to Montreal and started a basketball camp for kids. (Clelia Lavinskas)

CBC Quebec is highlighting people from the province's Black communities who are giving back, inspiring others and helping to shape our future. These are the Black Changemakers.

Trevor Williams has been running basketball camps for Montreal-area kids for almost 30 years. As the times have changed, he's had to think about how best to reach each generation of kids.

But what hasn't changed is how he tries to get the best out of them.

"There's no substitute for hard work," he said.

Williams grew up in Little Burgundy, playing hockey, baseball and basketball. He attended Five Star Basketball Camp, a prestigious camp for kids that lists NBA stars Michael Jordan, Patrick Ewing, LeBron James, Kevin Durant and Stephen Curry among its alumni.

He eventually received a basketball scholarship to an American university and played for Division 1 schools in Louisiana and New Jersey.

In 1992, Williams played for the Canadian national team and faced off against the juggernaut known as the Dream Team, the U.S. national team that featured Jordan, Magic Johnson and Larry Bird.

After returning to Montreal, he decided he wanted to start a camp that would focus on basketball skills development, similar to what was offered in the U.S. So, with his childhood friend Dean Smith, he started the Trevor Williams Basketball Academy, a summer camp.

The first edition of the camp attracted about 10 participants. Now, they average about 170 kids a week. Williams, who coaches basketball at Dawson College, brings in CEGEP and university basketball players to work as camp counsellors.

As the camp grew, he found that they would lose track of the kids once the summer was over. In 2002, he created the Trevor Williams Kids Foundation and broadened the mission, trying to focus on the kids' development in a holistic way, year-round. They run programs around academics, mental wellness and sexual health.

Growing up playing sports made Williams feel more accepted in high school, motivated him to keep his grades up, and even helped him get his university degree. He is trying to pass on the same lessons he learned to the kids of today.

"You're really learning how to be determined in life. You're really learning how to persevere," he said.

"These are all the tangible things that you need to succeed."

Williams tries to teach the kids what he considers to be the fundamentals, especially the idea of treating people the way they would want to be treated themselves.

His mantra is "each one, teach one."

"Whatever philosophy and knowledge that I obtain, I try to pass it on to my students that I teach. And I think it's up to them now to pass it on to the next generation."

A former participant, Denburk Reid, has started his own foundation offering basketball and other programming to kids — a prime example of the Williams mantra in action.

Williams doesn't base his level of satisfaction on the response he gets from the participants. It's rewarding, he said, to see someone succeed and move on.

"As long as you feel good about what you're doing, you know, I think that's enough."

The Black Changemakers is a special series recognizing individuals who, regardless of background or industry, are driven to create a positive impact in their community. From tackling problems to showing small gestures of kindness on a daily basis, these changemakers are making a difference and inspiring others. Meet all the changemakers here.

Written by Kamila Hinkson, with files from Rowan Kennedy