Carroll clinic coaches kids in basketball, life

Local celebrity athletes give talks as part of church's sports program

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.

"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."

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