It’s so much more than a game

By Courtney Price
UNC Staff Writer
the Durham VOICE

Kids in the North Durham Basketball and Cheerleader Association learn so much more than how to pass a ball.

Carla Early, coach for the 7- to 8-year-olds, groups the team at the center of the court to break at the end of practice.

Carla Early, coach for the 7- to 8-year-olds, groups the team at the center of the court to break at the end of practice. (Photo by Courtney Price)

Hank Brown, who runs the association with his wife, Terry, said that’s not what it’s about.

“We’re trying to make them good citizens,” Hank said, who started the program in 1980.

The program teaches children age 6 to 14 about basketball and cheering, as well as teamwork and respect.

Hank leads the coaching for the basketball teams, and Terry, who started helping Hank a few years ago, teaches the girls to cheer. The boys play games almost every Saturday, and the girls cheer for them.

Terry teaches the girls basic cheers, through which they learn rhythm and get exercise. Terry also shows them basic anatomy, like where the calf muscle is, and teaches proper ways to stretch.

Sakoya Carver, an 8-year-old cheerleader, said she likes cheering in practice but gets nervous about the games.

“We get to have fun here and learn the cheers,” Sakoya said.

Shondra Brewer, a mother of one of the cheerleaders, said, “My daughter likes having something that she belongs to. It’s a good extracurricular activity.”

But for the $20 registration fee, parents buy their children so much more with Hank’s program.

“We try to be well-rounded with them. We offer tutoring through the School of Science and Math, we take them horseback riding,” he said.

The children also take trips to the North Carolina Zoo and the N.C. State Fair, and Hank and Terry organize dances and skating or bowling trips.

“There’s an old Chinese saying, ‘A journey of a thousand miles starts with one step,’” Hank said.

“The parents volunteer to bring snacks for the games,” said Terry. “We try to be very parent-oriented and parent-run.”

She said they work with parents to help the children grow socially, as well.

“Kids spend so much time in front of a computer or video game, they don’t know how to get along socially,” Terry said. “We teach them how to resolve issues without fighting.”

Hank and Terry have been active in their community for decades. (Photo by Praycious Wilson-Gay)

Hank and Terry have been active in their community for decades. (Photo by Praycious Wilson-Gay)

He started the program in 1980 with Durham Parks and Recreation to help cut down on crime in North Durham and put children on the right track.
“Things got worse in Durham; kids were standing on the corners. We can’t get them all, but we can get a few,” he said.

“We all have key inputs,” Terry said. “Hank teaches them to say ‘Yes, sir’ and ‘Yes, ma’am’ and we try to instill the morals that we were raised with.”

This helps build the teams from roots up. Hank and Terry said they start with the basics so everyone can learn.

“On my teams, we teach them how to play; you don’t already have to be good,” Hank said. “They can lose all the games, and that’s fine, as long as they improve.”

Terry said she and Hank fund the program themselves, and they are supported by parents and volunteers from the community.

Carla Early has been playing basketball since she was in middle school, and now she volunteers to coach for the association.
“It’s a great opportunity for kids,” Carla said. “The kids really enjoy it.”

Hank said this is a great opportunity for the coaches, too.

“Carla just started coaching this year,” he said. “If you never have the opportunity, you never know what you can do. Now these girls could go on to coach in the WNBA.”

Hank said providing the opportunity is what this program is all about.

“Some of the kids could have the answer to cancer in their heads, and we’ll never know if we don’t teach them,” he said.

Steven White, who coaches basketball for children age 13 and 14, said that some kids just need someone there to guide them.

“The young men need a positive role model and somebody to look up to,” Steven said.

With the dropout rate across the nation rising, Hank said he wants to be a positive force for the children in Durham.

“If we don’t do something soon, we’re going to have an underclass of people right here in America,” he said.

But sometimes, it’s much simpler than that.

“It’s about just enjoying yourself. You never know what you can do until you try,” he said.

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