Although he grew up playing, and later coaching, basketball, Jim Olayos saw the sport in a different light while watching practices for his 8-year-old son’s youth team.
“The game was fun for some of them, who knew the basics, and not fun for the rest of them,” said Olayos, who played for legendary coach Vito Montelli at St. Joseph High School in Trumbull in the mid 1970s. “I saw how they struggled with dribbling the ball and shooting at (regulation size) 10-foot baskets.”
The experience led Olayos to brainstorming sessions that ultimately produced the Future Stars Basketball Academy, an after-school program that he co-founded in 1997.
“We used lower baskets and smaller basketballs and recruited coaches I knew as instructors,” said Olayos. “We started running clinics and camps at recreation departments and YMCAs with the goal of complementing town programs.”
Nearly 20 years later, the Shelton-based program has expanded to offer more sports and changed its name to the Future Stars Sports Academy. As president, Olayos oversees the organizational aspects while also focusing on his duties as director of athletic advancement at Notre Dame High School in Fairfield.
This summer, Future Stars will offer a multi-sport camp at the SportsCenter of Connecticut in Shelton, as well as basketball, cheerleading and football camps at Notre Dame High School, and a basketball camp at InSports of Trumbull. Future Stars will also run programs in coordination with parks and recreation departments in Madison, Monroe and Darien.
At all of the camps and clinics, those attending will learn fundamentals, do drills and play scrimmages while under the supervision of qualified coaches. But they will also receive the component that sets Future Stars Sports apart: Its Lessons of Life sessions.
The Lessons of Life program involves three tracks — substance abuse prevention, education, and personal values — that each have six sub-components, such as friendship, self-esteem, and honesty. At the end of each camp or clinic session, those attending gather for a presentation, which is followed by a homework assignment that the child is encouraged to complete by discussing with an adult. Completed assignments result in incentive prizes, including school supplies, water bottles, etc.
“We might say, draw me a picture of you using safety equipment while riding a bike, or take a photo of yourself doing something responsible around the house,” said Olayos, who was selected as America’s Most Caring Coach by USA Today Weekend Magazine in 2000. “It’s what helps make Future Stars as unique a program as there is.”
And one that Olayos hopes can be his legacy.
“I was a lawyer for 20 years and worked on some big cases,” said Olayos, who returned to athletics full-time when he became the athletic director at St. Joseph in the early 2000s. “But being a lawyer was a job; it wasn’t my passion. I would talk about that for five minutes at most, but I would talk about sports and coaching and life lessons for hours.
“Everybody is trying to find that one thing that they can bring to the world that is exceptional,” added Olayos. “It would be a great legacy for me if Future Stars could continue to expand and help kids learn about sports and life, all while having fun.”