For the past two years I have been volunteering the spare time I had between playing college basketball and taking care of my responsibilities in the classroom with the non-profit organization TGK Athletics founded by Deangelo Alston and one of my best friends, Kurt Steiner. What intrigued me about TGK Athletics was not only the ability to share my passion with the youth in the community but also the life long impact that I can provide as a mentor, friend, and role model to these young individuals. We are at a time now, more than ever, where mentors and good role models are necessary. In the past two years I have been able to travel across New England and have experiences that I will take with me throughout my life, however, this past weekend was an experience that I will cherish forever. By teaming up with Heads Up For Our Youth, a non-profit organization that provides free hair cuts and other opportunities for kids, TGK held a free basketball clinic for the kids of the Greensboro, North Carolina community. Following the clinic we held a charity basketball game between the Greensboro Police Department and the barbers from Heads Up Barber and Beauty.
From the moment I had stepped into Brown Recreation Center the energy, passion, and love for not only the game of basketball but for each other and the community was palpable. Being with TGK Athletics, we have held countless clinics and workouts for multiple individuals, teams, and communities; however last weekend was a different experience. This weekend we were able to run a clinic in an area that many people have seemed to give up on. This touched me deeply, from the moment I stepped into the gym I felt nothing but love from everyone involved; the parents, the kids, and the other volunteers. This made me think that although some people may have given up on this area, there is still a pulse, and all it needs to truly be a great community once again are people who believe in them. This is especially true in terms of the youth of the community. The great Earvin “Magic” Johnson had stated that, “all kids need is a little help, a little hope, and someone who believes in them.” With these strong words by an influential individual in the back of my mind I couldn’t help but think what we are doing right now is of the upmost importance. If you want to turn a community around you do it by building a foundation based upon love and cohesiveness, where everyone is working towards the common goal of creating a safe haven for kids to strive to become anything that they put their minds to. Which is why I loved the experience of being a part of this clinic, as the athletes begin the new school year I was able to provide, along with And 1 basketball announcer Joe Pope, and the rest of the TGK family guidance and direction. During the clinic we had stressed the importance of handling their business in the classroom and the doors in which in doing so would open up to them.
Through my time with TGK I have noticed that the more positive and passionate you are with what you are doing, the student athletes will feed off of the energy. This was no more evident than while I was working my specific station, which was defense. While running a defense station, especially with younger student athletes there is often a lack of motivation or energy that starts to happen as my station focuses on primarily on footwork and agility. This happens mainly because I have the athletes predominately doing exercises that aren’t always the easiest or the most “fun”. However, these exercises are paramount to not only being a solid defender, but developing skills that can help individuals become a better all around athlete. While working this clinic and spreading positive energy the student athletes had worked at a level that had exceeded my expectations.
In retrospect, my experience working this clinic one thought kept creeping into my mind, which was that if these kids had these types of positive role models and direction around them more often, the possibilities for them are endless. By bringing positive reinforcements for their hard work and dedication, and giving them a pick me up when they struggled with certain drills, the focus and motivation to get better was relentless throughout the clinic.
Along with running the clinic, I was fortunate enough to play in the charity game that followed the clinic on the Heads Up team that was facing the Greensboro Police Department. During this portion of the event the atmosphere was electric as there were cheerleaders leading the crowd in support of both teams, along with fans bringing energy with each and every play. Not to mention, the world famous Joe Pope was kind enough to take time out of his busy schedule with his obligations to And 1 basketball and the Brooklyn Nets to not only attend the event, but also call the game. Also before the charity event he had even spoke to all of the student athletes who attended on the importance of hard work on the court and in the classroom.
Ultimately, the event in my eyes was a success, as the kids were able to take home messages that were instilled upon them throughout the clinic such as the importance of hard work not only on the court but also in the classroom. Meanwhile having an opportunity to improve upon their game. As we move on I can’t wait to come back and run an event like this again in the near future. I feel as though if we are able to attract even more people to come out and support in the community having word spread of the positive messages that we at TGK along with Heads Up For Our Youth are trying to promote, this event can touch even more lives and create an environment in which we can make an even greater change. Creating this type of change, just like trying to become a great basketball doesn’t happen overnight it’s a process in which we must take steps everyday. Which is why, just like we at TGK tell our athletes, we must “Embrace The Process.”