Zion Edwards has devoted his life to coaching sports and helping others in his role as the lead pastor at Bull Street Baptist Church.
Edwards knows firsthand how sports can help shape a life. The 43-year-old was a promising young athlete growing up in Savannah when he got into a bit of trouble around the age of 13.
But he had a coach, Wesley Kennedy Sr., who made an impact on his life and helped him change course. Edwards, who was recently hired as an assistant football coach at St. Andrew’s School. is trying to return the favor today in his roles at his church and as a coach.
Zion Edwards was recently hired as an assistant football coach at St. Andrew’s School on Wilmington Island. He will also coach middle school football and basketball there.
Outside of my father, coach Kennedy had the biggest impact on me during that time, said Edwards, a former standout quarterback at Groves High who is the director of the Hope Intitiative at Bull Street Baptist Church. He helped set my life back on course and led me to become a Christian pastor and advocate for the youth of Savannah.
Coach Kennedy taught me that coaching is about more than X’s and O’s and wins and losses . It’s about instilling integrity in a kid and teaching them about honesty and manhood. He’s the reason why I coach today.
More:Remembering Jack Miller, a local coach whose impact went well beyond football field
Kennedy and Edwards and still close friends.
When I coached him, he was always very attentive and eager to learn, Kennedy said. He was always the first in line to do any drill. He had that leadership quality in him even back then, so I’m not surprised with everything he has done.
When he was coaching the youth leagues in Garden City, he asked me to come out and give some words of encouragement to the kids. We talked about using sports to build character. He still calls me and thanks me for my tutelage. I like to look back, and I’m very proud of him.
Edwards said his father’s conversion to Christianity had a big effect on his own life, and he followed suit — making religion and its message a focal point.
He coached in the Garden City Recreation Department, coaching football and basketball starting in 2010. He went on to become a youth sports director and the Middle School Sports Coordinator at Bethesda Academy, while coaching the Blazers’ AAU basketball team before recently taking the job at St. Andrew’s, where he will be working with Blake Henry, in his first year leading the program. Edwards will also coach the middle school basketball and football programs at St. Andrew’s.
Edwards and his wife Tranise have two sons. Zyere Edwards is a rising junior at St. Andrew’s who was an all-state selection for a Lions basketball team that reached the GISA Elite Eight last season. He was recently named the defensive player of the camp at a Jay Bilas basketball camp.
Zayden, left, and Zyere Edwards of St. Andrew’s School.
Zayden Edwards is a rising freshman at St. Andrew’s. He is a standout quarterback and point guard.
Zion Edwards said he is looking forward to working closely with his sons and all of the student-athletes at St. Andrew’s. He will continue as an AAU basketball coach with the Team Intensity Under-15 squad.
More:Coastal Empire’s All-Greater Savannah boys basketball team announced
I think you can use sports to teach the greater lessons of life, Edwards said. We try to coach from the inside out to build character and a love of God, The hard work and learning you get from sports translates to the real world. We want to teach kids they need to be doing the right thing when nobody is looking.
Hard work and accountability are important playing on a basketball team — you have to develop that trust with your teammates. You have the same thing in the business world and in family life — those are the types of things we try to teach.
Zion Edwards talks with members of the Team Intensity Under-15 squad he coaches at a recent practice.
Edwards worked in corrections for 15 years, including five years in juvenile hall. He learned firsthand how youth can go down the wrong path through bad decision making.
I had relationships with people who were incarcerated and understand how they ended up there, Edwards said. Now that I’m on this side of things, I want to do what I can to make sure the kids I work with don’t make those kind of choices. I want to deter them from ending up there.