North Hills sports mentor inspires smiles

Everyone calls him “Coach Dave.”

Dave Gray doles out encouragement and praise to youths as if it’s his job – because it is. Wearing his trademark light blue, black and white, he shows up to work at what many people might consider the best job in town: He makes lifetime memories for kids through Sports and Courts in the North Hills.

He has a repertoire of games, including some that are originals. He entertains while promoting a healthy and active lifestyle.

Through camps and classes, organized leagues and outings, Gray adopts the persona of a coach in just about any physical activity.

No doubt, sports are his thing. Using Disney as a comparison, he says, “I am not a character, but (sports) brings it out of me. I am in the business of putting smiles on kids’ faces and making them feel good about themselves. It just so happens sports is my vehicle to reach these kids.”

The sports card raffles at the end of the events contribute to the fun.

Gray displays genuine enthusiasm to make each “job” the most exciting part of a participant’s day.

“It’s a fun factor; that’s for sure,” he says. “It’s the most rewarding to see the smiles, laughter, expressions on kids’ faces.”

Coaching since 1996, he has touched thousands of lives.

When kids come to his events, he says, “It’s the kids’ big day. They look forward to that all week. It doesn’t always go their way, and sometimes it’s out of your control. But if it’s based on not getting the ball, or the way you talk to the kids, that is kind of our responsibility.”

Phil Pavely is a Trib Total Media photographer.

Reach him at ppavely@tribweb.com.