It sort of had a “If you build it, they will come” feel to it when we put up new basketball goals at our property on what had been an old elementary school court fallen into disrepair.
But the saying ending up proving true for us (not to say it does all the time). As soon as we were able to put new goals up and repair the court in 2010, a group of young boys began slowly coming around to do just what we hoped for – shoot hoops together.
Over the years, we’ve developed different opportunities for youth development for the young people in our own neighborhood, whether it be our after school program our our Camp Skillz summer camp. Those opportunities continue to adapt over time to meet the needs of youth as they develop.
Those young boys that once played on our courts are now high school age. They love to play basketball, but organized opportunities to do so aren't always easy to come by. Of course school sports are available, but they require considerable time, logistical obstacles, and don't allow them to develop further camaraderie with those in their neighborhood.
Stephen Ownby and Ben Young of G.O.D. Int'l, who work also for a sports league, took it upon themselves to coach these young men and organize them into a team. They’ve now been practicing once a week for two months, have competed in two tournaments and have another handful lined up through May. Stephen tells us, "They won their first game, lost their second, and barely lost a quarterfinal game of the knockout round. We had lots of fun conversations in our car rides, and the boys even worked the clock for 8 games after they played in order to pay for their entry fee into the tournament!"
I asked Stephen and Ben how the process had gone, taking this group and forming them into a team. “It’s been a process of them buying into believing that how we are coaching them will work, but it’s happening slowly,” said Young with a believing tone. “At first they just went out on the court and released a bunch of pent up energy from never having been able to play organized ball before, but they have learned to channel that energy and take direction.”
I attended a practice for the Ballerz this week and spoke to team member Lamar Childress to see how he felt about the team’s development. “It’s been a lot of fun. We’ve been playing together since we were young. We already know one another’s strengths on the court from playing so much together so that has helped us.” He then rattled off to me lots of examples of how certain players do well on certain parts of the court and playing in different positions.
If you’ve played sports, you know all the broader life lessons that can result from the process of being on a team, learning team dynamics, learning self-discipline, and considering your individual role in light of everyone else. It’s a wonderful thing.
So, we’re certainly glad we decided to rebuild the court. We’re more excited we are getting to build up these young men on a consistent basis. Catch ‘em live and in action! They practice Mondays from 4-5 on the G.O.D. Basketball Court.