Camp Lejeune, NC | March 7, 2013
Winning is great, but their attitude on the court is what sets them apart.
For nearly two hours, approximately 40 students from Brewster Middle School put their basketball skills and sportsmanship to the test during a Hoops-N-Dreams jamboree at the Goettge Memorial Field House aboard Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, Feb. 22.
The founder of Hoops-N-Dreams, Shiana K. Barbosa, started the program at Brewster Middle School in 2012 to promote student success in school through mentorship and physical activities. The program focuses on teamwork, camaraderie, positive character development and academic achievement. The mentors, who are active-duty Marines and sailors, work hand in hand with the students to encourage those traits.
"I'm just trying to teach them what I learned," said Petty Officer 3rd Class Maurice M. Taylor, 2nd Dental Battalion, 2nd Marine Logistics Group. "I learned a lot by playing basketball as far as teamwork and the basic fundamentals of the game."
Taylor currently serves as the head referee for Hoops-N-Dreams. He joins other volunteers every week to help foster the children's sense of responsibility and respect.
During practices, which occur Wednesdays, volunteers help the children with their academics by studying with them before playing basketball.
On the court, they emphasize teamwork and guide the students through the rules of the game. Some of the volunteers play side by side with the children to ensure each child has the chance to fully participate.
"We're 100-percent acceptance," said Emilio Garza, the principal of Brewster Middle School. "We have students who are very successful at different things, and it's what we focus on – trying to help them become better people."
The volunteers mentored by example and demonstrated attributes of teamwork by their own actions during the game. Instead of standing on the sidelines, yelling plays or coaching from the bench, the coaches ran with the students, encouraged them, and involved every player – regardless of basketball skill level.
The jamboree consisted of two basketball games with family-fun events during time-outs, halftimes, and other breaks. Events included Daddy-and-Me and Mommy-and-Me shooting contests, a free-throw contest, and a three-point shooting contest.
While competition is part of the program, the emphasis is on personal development.
"Yes, it's nice to win, but it's not the outcome we're looking for out here," said Garza, who was at Brewster Middle School for nearly a year and a half. "Some of the (students) were recommended by teachers.
"In fact, I recommended a couple myself because of what it's all about," continued Garza. "It is mentoring. It is helping the students make good choices. What you're seeing out there is just the playing of basketball."
Basketball is the tool the volunteers use to teach the students, said Garza. The children vary in ages and skill levels, but on the court they play as a team.
Garza gives all the credit to Barbosa, who started the program at the beginning of the school year when she pitched the idea to him. She also took the lead in finding volunteers from around the base to support weekly events.
"It brings back memories," said Taylor. "I can see myself in a couple of the kids – the way they smile and just have fun playing."
Every practice and jamboree includes teaching moments. The service members conduct short skits and host discussions about respect, courtesy, responsibility and a sense of belonging, as well as help the kids hone their basketball skills on the court.
It is the emphasis on character that allows the kids to enjoy the game even though they come from such diverse backgrounds and a variety of situations, noted Garza.
"They are all contributing to their team's effort," he said. "There are not going to be any losers tonight."