A chance for perspiration, inspiration

Clinic gives kids coaching in basketball and in life

July 16, 2002|By Athima Chansanchai | Athima Chansanchai,SUN STAFF

For most of the summer, basketballs bouncing on worn wooden floors and swooshing through the air filled the hallways at West Middle School, just outside Westminster city limits.

Sixty to 85 boys and girls showed up Monday and Wednesday nights - through last week - as part of the Union Street United Methodist Sports Ministry Clinic. The program has kept kids off the streets with lessons in the finer points of basketball and talks with local sports celebrities - including Baltimore Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis, who is expected to be on hand for the conclusion of the program this week.

"We try to give them the fundamentals of the sport, a safe haven for two nights a week, discipline and to instill in them the value of teamwork. There's no `I' in basketball," said Irvin T. Black Sr., who refereed a girls practice game on a recent Wednesday night.

A former assistant basketball coach at Westminster High School for 10 years, Black is co-chairman of the program and "Coach" to these kids - one of whom is his 17-year-old son and namesake, Irvin T. Black Jr.

For the third consecutive year, the kids took to the hardwood, dribbling, passing, running layups and shooting free throws. Younger kids learned the basics, while older players challenged one another in half-court scrimmages.

They went at it for more than an hour. To reward the kids for their hard work, organizers arranged for swimming sessions at McDaniel College.

But before they could play, they had to listen.

On a recent Wednesday, the guest speaker was Marvin Lewis, the former defensive coordinator who was instrumental in shaping the Ravens into Super Bowl champions. He spoke to the group last year, and returned this summer at the behest of coordinator Phyllis Hammond Black.

"This program provides a positive outlet and environment where they can interact with friends," Lewis said. "Right now, where they are in their lives, they have a chance to set their future."

He talked to the kids, who sat on the floor in a semicircle, about four things they could apply to ensure success.

Lewis stressed the importance of learning fundamentals in anything they pursued, whether it was shooting a jump shot or the three academic R's. He reminded them to set short- and long-term goals. Hard work, he added, takes time and determination.

Finally, he said, "Be respectful to people and it'll come back tenfold to you."

Parishioners from Calvary United Methodist Church in Mount Airy visited the school to hear Lewis speak.

"He was excellent. We liked all the points he was making," said Bill E. Eckard, coach of the church's basketball team and a father of six, one of whom wore his team jersey as he played with his Westminster counterparts. Several from the church participated in the night's activities.

Lucinda G. Nelson's husband, Ken, who oversees basketball games in Mount Airy for Calvary, took on that role this night. Nelson, Calvary's director of outreach, said they visited because they received a handbill. "God put[the flier]right in my mailbox," she said.

Black hopes more church groups follow Calvary's example.

"The goal is to have other churches participate, to have other teams so that we can have a league," Black said.

Through donations and grants, the program covered the cost of renting the auditorium/gym at the school and the pool at the college. Parents paid a $5 registration fee to help defray expenses.

Carroll County Health Department provided T-shirts through its tobacco cessation program. Other organizations contributing funds included the Carroll Community Foundation, Tevis Oil, for a total of about $3,000.

Coaches and athletes who have given their time to work with the program include Ravens head coach Brian Billick and tight end Michael McCrary. Sun sports columnist Mike Preston worked the younger boys in running and shuffling drills to build agility and flexibility.

The basketball sessions ended last week, but two big events are scheduled for the children. They will attend an assembly this week to hear from Super Bowl Most Valuable Player Ray Lewis. They're going to the Six Flags America amusement park next month to repeat a trip they took last year.

"It just confirms how necessary this program is," Hammond Black said. "It is definitely a great method to outreach to youth and get them into productive summer activities."

Its success, she said, is "another confirmation we need to keep the program running longer throughout summer. Our community has to continue to reach much more grass-roots programs for our children. There are not enough."

Summer activity and a chance to hone skills are the attractions for one program participant.

Shayla L. Brightful, 15, sporting a bright red Philadelphia Sixers Allen Iverson jersey, black Airforce One sneaks and white Michael Jordan wristbands, looked like a WNBA star in the making.

A program veteran since the beginning, the future Winters Mill High School sophomore has played on school teams since middle school and likes the competition of playing in a co-ed environment. She also likes having something to do when school is out.

"It keeps me out of trouble," she said. "I don't play [ball] a lot in the summertime, so it gives me a chance to play."

For parent Tina M. Cross, the program gives her daughter Jazzmin, a petite 6-year-old, a means to be active and become strong. That opportunity in vital for Jazzmin, who is in remission from Burkitt's lymphoma, a type of cancer.

In her bright green Powerpuff Girls shirt, she was easy to pick out in a throng of pint-sized players.

"It keeps kids focused rather than being out on the street," Cross said.

"Jazzmin is learning how to shoot, she didn't know how before and now she's dribbling with control," he mother said. "She's come a long way."

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