Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Basketball Clinic Builds Fundamentals, Self Esteem

Yesterday the temperature outside peaked just below 90 degrees. On the blacktop court in Southeast Washington, though, the still air and bright sun pushed the temperature up toward 100. It was measured not on any thermometer, but on the brows of some 40 girls from Southeast D.C. and on the foreheads of eight Georgetown students – their mentors who, at least for yesterday, were their coaches.

A cacophony of shouts, giggles and the dull thuds of a dozen bouncing basketballs passing hand to court and back again filled the searing, still air. A hoop anchored each side of the asphalt pad, which is surrounded by a chain link fence.

Every week, two vans carry the Georgetown students across Key Bridge, past the Capitol, into one of the poorest sectors of Washington to the Washington Middle School for Girls. Normally the PACT program – Partnership for Athletics, Community Service and Tutoring – tutors remain in the school’s classrooms, ensconced in an apartment complex. But yesterday a number of factors led the group and the 40 young girls aged 10 to 14 years across the street to the courts.

The nice (if desert-like) weather certainly contributed to the basketball camp’s success, but perhaps more than anything else, the two-day camp was spurred on by the program’s dedication to the Jesuit ideals of educating the whole person.

And by at least one anonymous benefactor.

The unknown sponsor asked that the camp be used to select four to five girls whose entrance fees the donor will pay at this summer’s Georgetown Youth Basketball Camp for Girls. Entrance fees for the five-day camp can be as high as $450 per girl.

Yet for at least this one sponsor, and for PACT founder Jason Crawford, the experience is an investment in the future of these girls. So for about an hour yesterday afternoon and again today, the mentors and their pupils took time away from the classroom fundamentals of math, science and language arts to focus on the basketball fundamentals of passing, dribbling and shooting.

In fact, investing in the futures of these girls is the norm at WMSG. The school itself encompasses grades five through eight, but its aim is more long-term. It prepares the girls for education at a private high school and helps them find their way into schools such as the Duke Ellington School of Arts here in Georgetown.

While the girls were just there to have fun and did not yet know about the opportunity to attend the Georgetown camp, the camp marks a logical extension of the Jesuit mission. The tutors were not looking for the best shooter or the most skilled dribbler. Rather, they were searching for the most deserving girls – the girls who would benefit not only from honing their skills, but also from boosting their confidence. They were looking for the right attitude – and that meant, at least in part, a willingness to listen, learn and look for possibilities and promise.

Take Mia, for instance. The school’s PE teacher, Ms. Norris, described Mia as not particularly confident. “But she’s got a great bounce-pass,” one of the mentors responded. The PACT tutors focused on such observations, lauding the young players for their individual talents while motivating and helping them to improve on their weaknesses.

And the girls showed that sometimes that little bit of motivation is all that’s needed.

Within an hour, every girl on that asphalt court in Southeast D.C., had visibly improved – still without knowledge of the Georgetown summer camp and their anonymous benefactor. Within an hour they had all begun to see what was possible.

It’s not likely that any of those girls is the next Diana Taurasi or Rebekkah Brunson, but they’ve been given a chance, and that’s an important start. They’ve seen what’s possible within themselves, and at least a few of them will see their efforts rewarded by getting to Georgetown – if only for a few days this summer, for now.

For some it will be a return to the campus. Many of the girls came to Georgetown last semester to watch the women’s basketball team practice and meet with Head Coach Pat Knapp, who gave them all blue and gray basketballs.

For others, it may be a first time, but hopefully not the last. It’s certainly not outside the realm of possibilities that, five or six years from now, these girls find themselves walking through Healy Gates as a student. They may find themselves playing for Knapp; they may not.

Two days of basketball camp may not seem like a big deal to us, but the fact is that their experiences now will open – or at least show them the location of – doors for possibilities in their future.

That’s the value of educating the whole person.

Derek Richmond can be reached at richmondthehoya.com. THE W appears every Tuesday.

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