Longtime Rotary volunteer oversees popular sports program

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Scott Williams outside the Montana Department of Revenue on July 30. (Casey Kreider/Daily Inter Lake)

Scott Williams has dedicated much of his adult life toward improving the lives of children in the Flathead Valley through youth sports.

A fifth-generation Montanan, Williams grew up in Helena, where he played basketball, and went on to attend college at the University of Montana. Williams majored in political science and history with an emphasis in public administration.

Following his education, he worked for a general contractor whose work often brought him to the Flathead Valley. When a state appraisal job opened up, he was able to call the Flathead home. He now works with the Department of Revenue.

Williams has been involved in the community from the beginning, coaching softball and basketball. But shorty after moving to the area, he witnessed the impactful work of the Rotary Club, which at the time was supporting the addition of the new Kid Sport fields. The fields would give his softball team a new and improved area to practice and hold games. This, combined with the need for changes in the program Williams saw while coaching his step-daughter’s Rotary basketball team, was enough to make him an avid member of the group.

With his coaching experience, he was quickly lured into the depths of Rotary basketball, where 21 years later he still works tirelessly.

Each year, the club’s low cost and inclusivity attract around 800 to 1,000 kids in third through sixth grade from around the valley. At just $45, Williams claims it is “the cheapest youth sporting organization in Northwest Montana.” In his eyes, every kid deserves the opportunity to learn the sport and the morals that accompany it, regardless of financial ability.

Williams’s role evolved, and when three fellow Rotarians decided to retire, he found himself at the head of the basketball program, where he remains today. The position isn’t all smiling kids and shooting hoops, although for Williams that is the best part.

He is in charge of the meticulous details that go into running a team, or in his case, four teams. Williams arranges the game schedule, recruits coaches, encourages sponsors, seeks out referees, and manages the budget. With a two-month season for both boys and girls, and a month of planning before each begin, he spends half the year ensuring the youngsters have the best basketball experience possible.

Williams sees basketball as an opportunity for personal growth and to form lasting connections with peers. The program tries to keep the same groups of kids playing together year after year. Initially, the players are grouped by their elementary school and most of the teams remain relatively unbroken up until their departure after the sixth-grade tournament. This builds their sense of teamwork and ensures that they have a close group of friends going into middle school, which, according to Williams, “is an important time of change in their lives.”

The net that the club holds under its players during the time of transition is often vital to their success in a new middle school.

Williams says he’s been considering retirement for years, but his role in the program, and in the kids’ lives, remains important. The reward for his hard work and dedication is watching his players grow up. From coaching kids, to recruiting them to referee, to hiring them to work for him, he has seen the full cycle.

The relationships Williams forms with his players are not limited to their years on the court, and he said that is a very special aspect of the program; the players can have an alternative family and support system at any moment if they choose.

The Rotary basketball program is hard work, but Williams says he does it for the kids, who deserve every second of it.

For more information about Rotary basketball, visit https://www.rotarybasketball.com. New referees, coaches, and players are always welcomed.

Daily Inter Lake intern Katie Lessmeier can be reach at klessmeier@dailyinterlake.com

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