Wednesday, July 15, 2009

A Little Front Page Love Goes A Long Way

The University of Maryland, Baltimore County's student newspaper, The Retriever Weekly, just served up a really nice article about The Basketball League on the front page of this week's edition.

A huge thanks goes out to the article's author, Andrea Thomson, both for taking a genuine interest in our work and writing such a complimentary piece.

We are something worth believing in.

Power Forward Baltimore

Thursday, May 21, 2009

New And Big And Different

Through the focused leadership, hard work and passion of our guy's from The Helping Up Mission, The Basketball League is changing. And by changing, we mean growing. And by growing, we mean evolving.

At the end of last week's session, three of our guy's -- Johnny, Mike and Greg -- each expressed that we needed to do more with our ninety minutes together. They were completely right. There is a noticeable skill divide between our players, and it had finally caught up with us.

While these men had become frustrated with the overall level of basketball being played by the group, we knew that they could design a program that would teach the fundamentals that everyone needed to succeed. They weren’t confident about implementing the changes, but they knew that it could be done. That it had to be done. It's just as Mike said as we stood in front of The Melo Center two weeks ago: "We need to teach everyone how to play."

Our pilot program was designed to give our guy's from The Basketball League the opportunity to take total and complete ownership of every aspect of the process. If something needs changing, they can change it. If something needs fixing, they can fix it.

We met with Johnny and Mike on Monday afternoon and they carefully mapped out a curriculum for what would be our first practice. Their schedule allotted specific amounts of time for stretching, lay-up lines, shooting lines, free throws, and passing and dribbling drills. They estimated that these skill-building drills would take us from 735p to 810p, after which we would divide the group into two teams and play straight through The Melo Center's 900p curfew.

In Wednesday's reality, Monday's designed practice was nothing short of inspiring. As the stretching came to a close at 740p, Johnny effortlessly hopped off the bleachers and took firm charge. For the next eighty-minutes, he surprised everyone -- most of all, himself -- by energetically taking our crew through his well-planned drills and exercises, carefully explaining every important detail and expectation along the way.

Johnny used the rolling scrimmage as but another opportunity to teach, frequently arresting play to further drive home key group and individual concepts. With everything now moving at game speed, the crew’s collective learning curve accelerated accordingly.

At 855p, Johnny halted the animated full-court play and asked the group to line up on the back wall for sprints. Suicides, to be exact. Words were said, faces were made, eyes were rolled. But twenty seconds later, the entire group of sixteen men were off on their first suicide. Foul line and back. Mid-line and back. Far foul line and back. End line and back. Done. They took a brief thirty second break, then repeated the entire progression.

It was a long, hard practice and it took some of our guy’s a good while to finish that second suicide. But finish that suicide they did.

Wednesday night was the start of something new and big and different for The Basketball League. Not only was this amazing, courageous group of men ably lead by one of their peers, but they responded positively to his leadership and instruction.

After just ninety minutes, our guy's had not only become better individual and team basketball players, but they were noticeably closer and more comfortable with each other than they had been the previous four weeks.

Through our main man Tom at The Helping Up Mission, we heard that a many of our guy's were pumped about Wednesday night, going well out of their way to tell staff at the house that this had been by far the best week yet.

This is new and big and different, for sure. We can't wait to see where it leads us.

We are something worth believing in.

Power Forward Baltimore

Friday, April 24, 2009

The Basketball League Week 2 -- More Sweat, Bigger Smiles and Thankfully, No Injuries

These guy's are something worth believing in.

After The Basketball League got off to a great start last week, our crew from The Helping Up Mission hit the gym at The Carmelo Anthony Youth Development Center Wednesday night on a mission to raise their level of play.

Mission accomplished.

The contrast between the level of play this week versus last would be easily distinguishable to even the most casual observer. The guy's are playing a tight, hard-nosed brand of basketball, defending every inch of the floor and finishing strong out on the break. But more than anything, they are bringing an unbelievable amount of passion and fire into The Melo Center gym; you can hear it in the words that they exchange moving up and down the floor or waiting on the sidelines, and you can see it in their eyes.

Though The Basketball League has quickly developed into a serious competitive environment, there is still a serious amount of fun being had. During our ninety minutes together on Wednesday, we repeatedly threatened the structural integrity of The Melo Center with bright, thunderous eruptions of laughter.

Unfortunately, two great guy's from our crew suffered minor injuries during our first game last week. We'd like to wish them a speedy recovery so they can get back on the court with us and play the game that they love. In the meantime, these men will continue to participate and be involved with The Basketball League as we shift gears in the coming week and focus inward in an effort to identify and develop our group and individual goals.

With this work together, we begin to set the foundation for change. After that, there's more -- more work, more sacrifice, more obstacles, more searching, more doubt, more fear, more uncertainty, more pain.

But there's good news here. When you do more, when you give more, when you go through more -- you get more.

Over the next two months, our friends from
The Basketball League are going to prove this simple theory to themselves and each other.

Change doesn't come easy -- but it is coming.

We hope to have better pictures (and perhaps a video or two) for you after the next game. In the meantime, please enjoy these:

Johnny, taking a rare break from the action (joined by his wife Lorraine and son Jahmaine).

Competing, even on the sideline, everyone is thinking the same exact same thing: "I can do it way better than that."

Rich, breaking down into his best triple-threat position, looks to make the magic happen.

You can't deny: the camera just loves him.

We are something worth believing in.

Power Forward Baltimore

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

The Basketball League

It's finally happening. Tonight at 800p, we hit the gym. And so The Basketball League begins.

I just received our Power Forward Baltimore uniforms from Ellen, Amanda and the other fine folks at Keystone Tees this afternoon, and they're looking quite fresh. We are officially ready to ball.

I'm headed out in about fifteen minutes to meet with Tom Bond and our guy's from The Helping Up Mission; unfortunately, I haven't had the opportunity to meet with the sixteen exceptional men that will be participating in The Basketball League until tonight. If Tom kept his end of the bargain, the jerseys and shorts that I'm bringing for them will be a surprise. This evening is all about spending some time with the guy's and getting to know them; they are as much of an inspiration to me as anything because they have seized an opportunity to take an active role in the creation of something different. These men are innovators. And they love basketball.

I can't wait to meet them.

I would like to thank everyone that has made Power Forward Baltimore and The Basketball League possible: David Hoffman, Delana Gregg, Alex Hyland, Jennifer Kent, Jaree R. Colbert, The Alex. Brown Foundation, Michelle Wolff, Tom Bond, Bob Gehman, Talib Horne, Kurk Lee, Joe Ehrmann, Terry Rubenstein and Seth Godin. Thank you to everyone for their continued and much-needed support as I have tried to get this project off the ground over the last six months.

The Basketball League has been designed as a powerful instrument for its participants to wield; it is only as successful as they are. I am both honored and privileged to work with the men of The Helping Up Mission to custom-craft a completely unique environment where lasting, real change is possible. Over the next ten weeks we will work purposefully together to achieve both their individual and group goals. In the end, what our friends from The Helping Up Mission yield from this experience will be directly proportionate to their active, hands-on engagement in its process.

It's no secret that tonight is a big, big night for me. I love Baltimore and its people more than anything; I can't believe that I now have this incredible opportunity to be of service to them both.

I see a bright, beautiful future for our beloved Baltimore even if you can't. And I know that together we're going to make it reality.

We are something worth believing in.

Power Forward Baltimore