THROWBACK THURSDAY – As the pressure to meet our financial goals is on for the next 7-10 days, it’s a good time to pause and reflect on the success of The Gotham Basketball Association, so that we don’t forget why we started.
In the fall of 2009 I knew I’d be coaching a boys’ team of grade 7 players during a busy year (school teams, homework, bar mitzvah season). I said that there was no need to travel to Long Island or New Jersey to play in a big facility with six games going on. All we had to do was go a few blocks north to a place called Harlem, USA. The coolest part is that the parents did not hesitate. As people very cognizant of how tight there weekends are and how much their kids are often given a smooth ride on easy street, they said, “We are in.”
Next stop was finding teams that would actually say yes. Roosevelt Byers at the Dunleavy Milbank Center in Harlem took my call and then invited me to discuss. I remember the day we met and how I said I felt we needed to build a community nearby where all kids could play, not just elite ones or not just ones who can pay.
We went from six pilot teams in 2009 to about 80 teams today. We charge reasonable fees to teams even if that means we have to raise tens of thousands of dollars to cover the shortage. We made it a goal to provide equal opportunity to girls and boys. In 2009 there were no girls’ teams. In 2010 there were maybe 5 teams total, mostly Motion teams. One young team was always short players and they often did not have sneakers on them. I remember coaching in my socks so another girl could play in the game. So many Motion parents stuck it out – even when we played each other 4 times a season – and even when we lost games early so badly that the other team asked to turn the scoreboard off.
Below are a bunch of photos from our early days. Roosevelt says that four boys in one photo are on their way to full Division I scholarships this year, including Isaiah Washington and Sid Wilson. Autumn Truesdale, a Division prospect, is also a GBA alum. Sophie Gershon is hooping at MIT. Brenton Howell is playing DI basketball and Adisa Majors is playing at Middlebury. A few of our alum are currently being recruited by Division III schools. Then there’s Milbank in true Milbank form. I thought the team way back was good until I saw their seventh grade team this year. The coach said to me before the game, “I think this is the best seventh grade team we’ve ever had.”
“Oh, no,” I said.
It’s probably a good idea to snap some close-ups of that group for the GBA photo album. And in that album, we have kids who are great students, leaders and lovers of the game.
Thank you to all the folks who have made the league possible over the years – from the coaches to the parents to the donors. And thank you to Arielle Robinson, who has been carrying the weight with me all season. Today I cranked up my spotify to get everything done while Arielle hustled, spending most of her week to run the GBA. When a coach called out sick, Ari stepped up and said she would cover so I could finish all my emails to raise funds. I was able to finish, hit the gym, write this blog and ready for another great weekend of GBA hoops.