Wayne Strong honored by the Madison South Rotary
Commitment beyond Duty
Since Strong has been deeply involved in South Madison for the past 16 years, one would think that he lived and raised his
family there. But Strong is a long-time east sider. One could never tell.
In 1994, Strong became the Baird-Fisher Neighborhood Officer. In essence, the neighborhood officer is a beat cop who represents
the department in the neighborhood as well as work on public safety issues with the residents. At first, it wasn’t easy. “People weren’
t very welcoming when I first got there,” Strong said in an interview with The Hues. “I was about the third neighborhood officer. It
takes a while to get to know people and for people to get to know you. Building those relationships turned out to be pivotal for me
because they are ones that I still maintain today. It was a tough inroad. It wasn’t an easy go of it at the outset, but it paid off.”
As the neighborhood officer, Strong had a lot of latitude in how he would interface with the community. For two years, he
sponsored a spelling bee that gave out cash prizes. Then during the summer, he was over at Penn Park watching the Southside
Raiders, a 3-8 grade community-based football team started by Will Boyd Smith back in 1970, practice as a part of his duties.
“James Kilgore just turned to me one day and said ‘Do you want to coach,’” Strong said. “And I said ‘Oh yeah.’ But then I had to
run it by my lieutenant at the time who was Noble Wray. I talked to him and Randy Gaber who is now the assistant chief and had been
the Bayview neighborhood officer and Randy had kind of set the precedent for neighborhood officers’ involvement in the community
with his involvement in Bayview. He volunteered as a baseball coach and doing other things in the community. That set the
precedence for neighborhood officers being able to do those kinds of things on duty, which is nice. It’s a pivotal part of your job if you
have the desire to work with young people. And that is something that I have always enjoyed doing.”
Coaching the Raiders was a win-win situation for Strong. While it was done under the guise of his duties as a neighborhood
officer, it was something that he loved doing, something that benefited the kids and also gave him an entre into the neighborhood.
“When people see that you have an interest in their kids and you want to work with them, it makes a difference,” Strong said.
“And there are a lot of parents — especially single parents and I know this from first hand experience growing up in a single parent
family — when an adult in the community interest in their child and their activities, that goes a long ways in motivating that kid.
Parents can do that up to a point, but when youth have that outside influence on them — especially when it is someone they look up to
and respect and admire in some way and they show an interest in what you do — it goes a long ways toward motivating them. I know
for me as a kid growing up in Racine, it was pivotal. There were people whom I knew in the community that I looked up to. I said
‘Someday I want to be like him. I would like to have a family and have some kids and a home and have a nice job.’ Those were things
that motivated me and kept me on the straight and narrow.”
With the exception of one year, over the next 13 years, Strong worked out of the South precinct and coached the Raiders. After
Strong moved on professionally, now working and living on Madison’s eastside, Strong’s heart continued to remain in South Madison
with the Raiders and continued to coach and run the Raiders with his do-director Isadore Knox.
“We’ve worked together for the last six years now,” Strong recalled. “I was directing it by myself and was on the verge of saying
it was too much. Then God sent Isadore to me and what a blessing it was. We have the same objectives and goals in mind for the
program. We differ on some things, but overall, we know the direction we want to take the program and that is how we have been
able to work together effectively to keep the program afloat and to really grow it. We’re trying to grow the number just not in terms of
numbers, but in terms of the quality of the program. We want to make it a quality program. We feel it is a quality program, but we want
to make it better. We want better facilities and equipment. That’s what we are striving for every year. We have high expectations for
our coaches. They don’t get paid. They are volunteers like we are. Yet, when you step out on the field, it’s like you are in a paid
position because it is a huge responsibility and it is critical to the success of the program and players.”
About 90-100 young people participate in the Raiders program each fall. They have fifth grade, sixth grade and eighth grade teams
plus a cheerleading squad. They are allowed by their league 18 practices in the month of August and three per week during the
season, which stretches from the beginning of school in September until the middle of October. A typical season will be seven games
with 3-4 of those games played at their home field, Penn Park.
While everyone involved is serious about football, the coaches are equally concerned about building character. “We really try to
stress the importance of responsibility,” Strong said. “Respect of yourself, your opponents and other people are huge. Education and
staying in school are huge and we really stress that with kids. If a parent comes to us — we don’t have any way to monitor grades —
and says ‘Johnny had a rough day of school today and he isn’t passing one of his classes,’ we support that parent. We tell them that
they have to do what they have to do about that and we support that. If they don’t want them out there, they won’t play. We ask them
what they need us to do in order to support their efforts to get them back on the right track. The collaboration with the parents is big.
We really try to focus on that because parents are a key component of the program. Without them, we wouldn’t have the kids. We really
try to involve the parents as much as possible to actively participate and be partners with us in order to make their child a productive
citizen because that is what we want for all of our kids, whether they go on to play high school football or not. We want them all to be
model citizens and good students and good people.”
While the Raiders are concerned with building character, it doesn’t mean that they don’t want to turn out great football players.
Tyrone Braxton, the former Denver Bronco and Derrick Stanley, the former St. Louis Rams, as well as former Badger Jeff Mack are
products of the Raiders. And it is Wayne Strong’s commitment beyond duty and his understanding family that have produced some fine
young men and football players in South Madison.
On March 27, the Southside Raiders will host a Meet & Greet at the Boys & Girls Club on Allied Drive, 5:30 – 9 p.m. as a part of
their 40th anniversary celebration.
By Jonathan Gramling
On February 1, Wayne Strong, a lieutenant with the Madison Police
Department, was lured to a meeting of the Madison South Rotary at the
Sheraton Hotel by his wife Terri who told him that she was going to receive
an award from the Rotary. As the award ceremony unfolded, a look of
surprise spread slowly across Wayne’s face as he realized that it was he
and not Terri who was getting the award.
As Strong made his way to the podium, Capt. Joe Balles, the
commander of the Madison South precinct where Strong spent many years,
talked about why Strong was receiving a Paul Harris Fellow award. “You
are being recognized in special appreciation for the ways in which your life
exemplifies the humanitarian and educational objectives of the Rotary
Foundation,” Balles said. “Today we would like to thank you for
demonstrating a life long commitment to helping persons in South
Madison. The symbolism in this recognition is to simply say thank you for
making a difference in South Madison and in the lives of all the kids who
have participated in Southside Raider football.” Strong was greeted with a
|Wayne Strong’s (l) involvement with the Southside Raiders
since 1994 was made possible through the strong support
of his wife Terri (r) and his family.