“And remember, guys, it’s about sportsmanship!”
The sound of cheering and stomping rumbled through the gym as Derrell Hand, Project Bridge transitional coordinator and facilitator of the basketball tournament, wrapped his speech about “playing fair” and having a good time. When he finished, nearly 30 players hit the courts to begin stretching, shooting baskets, and devising game plans.
“Typically, each Project Bridge site operates independently, and this is the first time kids from all six circuits have come together,” said Melvin Guzman, Project Bridge manager for circuit 9. He added confidently, “I’m sure it’ll be the first of many events for us to collaborate like this. This is great.”
Mentors and project managers worked their way around the gym during the event. At any given point, each could be seen coaching, announcing, or refereeing the games, occasionally taking players aside to give one-on-one guidance.
As teams were eliminated, they remained upbeat and jogged to the sidelines to begin rooting for those still in the running for the championship. Players exchanged jokes and high fives, encouraging each other while making friends with Project Bridge members from other circuits they’d never met.
Before the tournament, players were reminded that they would make some shots and miss others, but the goal was not to quit.
And it was a lesson, they’re learning, that applies to so much more than the game of basketball.