Raised by a single mom, Jovanny Torres was unable to complete his college education, but he hasn’t let that stand in his way. Mr. Torres grew up in Fort Lauderdale, where he helped his mother pay the bills and raise his two younger brothers. He moved to Okeechobee in 2011, and now he is working with the youth of Okeechobee in many different ways.
When he first arrived in Okeechobee, he began working as the sport’s coordinator on the reservation in the community gym setting up after school activities, leagues and tournaments. He did that for about a year. He also coached a travel basketball team for them, and while practicing one day, he met the Okeechobee High School coach, who had heard about Mr. Torres already. The coach offered Mr. Torres a job coaching the freshman boys.
After coaching the boys basketball team for five years, he switched over and began coaching the girls but is still assistant coach for the boys. “It’s different,” he said, “but I like it, and it’s going well.”
Mr. Torres is vice-president of Chobee Nation, a competitive basketball group. He also coaches the Elite Division. Chobee Nation is made up of kids from Okeechobee, the reservation and Fort Pierce. The Elite Division of Chobee Nation, he explained, is handpicked. They travel all over Florida. They have been to Disney World, Tampa, Miami, etc. On the other hand, their other division does not travel and are not handpicked. They still compete about once a month, but all their competitions are in Okeechobee.
The opposing teams come here. Chobee Nation is made up of both boys and girls.
Mr. Torres and his wife, Josie Snow, have six children between them. She has three older daughters from a previous relationship — 13-year-old Keiyana, 11-year-old Maylon and 8-year-old Zoie. He has an older son from a previous relationship — Jovanny Jr., and together, they have 4-year-old Kaine and 2-year-old Jayda. Jovanny Jr. plays baseball, and his dad coaches. Maylon plays softball, and Mr. Torres is not the coach but helps as much as possible with the team.
Refereeing for the Treasure Coast Officiating Association is something Mr. Torres has done for the last four years whenever he is not busy coaching, which he admits is not very often.
In the summertime, he trains kids in exercise and basketball. A coach suggested to him a few years ago that he become a certified youth exercise specialist, and he thought that was a good idea, so he did. He said it has helped him a lot with coaching because often you just aren’t sure if a kid is faking, and now he is trained in what to look for, and now he sometimes knows when a kid needs to sit down before the kid knows. He explained they taught him when to push and when not to push. The training is called Next Level Training. When summer starts, he trains from 9 a.m. until 6 p.m.
Many of the kids from his basketball teams train with him, but lots of kids who have never picked up a basketball train with him, too. They come just for the workouts, he said. When they sign up, he asks them what they want to get out of it. Are they trying to build muscle? Lose weight? Train for a specific sport? They do the training at the Sports Complex. He has a website NXTLevelTraining.net.
The website for travel ball is Chobeenation.com. Every year, they offer a two-week camp completely free for any child age 8 to 15 during the summer. They use their high school kids who need volunteer hours to help with the camp. They do a lot of fun stuff, he said, and you don’t have to be experienced. They just want kids to have fun. The camp is from 9 a.m. until 3 p.m., and they offer free breakfast and lunch. It’s funded by grants, and the high school allows them to use the gym because they are a non-profit.
This summer, he plans to start taking some college classes so he can finish up his college education. He said he is working as an English/language arts and reading teacher at the school out on the reservation, and he has a couple free periods when he can do some studying even when school starts back up again next year.
Pastor Eric Phillips of Everglades Baptist Church, who is also a basketball coach, said this about Mr. Torres: “Jovanny is a kind and caring man. His genuine concern for boys and girls from all backgrounds is evident. He is a great example of servant leadership. He has sacrificed himself over and over for the good of others. He has spent countless hours in the gym helping boys and girls of all ages become better basketball players. He is also willing to build relationships with his players as well as their families. Nobody could walk away from Jovanny after knowing him for a while and say that I don’t think he cares about my well-being. Jovanny is also a team player. He is willing to work with different kinds of people to make things better for everyone involved. We are very blessed as a community to have him as a coach for our young people.