Learning life’s skills – on the court

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, November 26, 2003

Suffolk News-Herald

&uot;Dribble with your right hands!&uot; Ganon Baker called to his young charges Saturday morning at King’s Fork Recreation Center. &uot;Keep your other hand up. That makes your ball private property! You don’t want people coming into your yard without permission, so you put a fence around it! Put your hand up puts a fence around the ball, because if it isn’t there, that ball is public property!&uot;

For an hour on Saturday, Baker and his fellow teachers taught Suffolk elementary school teachers the basics of America’s favorite court sport as part of the ‘Shake N’ Bake’ basketball program. Baker, who made All-State honors while leading Hampton High School to a state title in 1989 and played in college for Duquesne and UNC-Wilmington (as well as receiving a tryout with the Denver Nuggets), has presented the clinic at over 100 schools.

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&uot;Now we’re going to play a game of ‘dribble tag’&uot; he told the group. &uot;You guys have to keep dribbling the balls around the court, and myself and the other coaches are going to try to come up and steal it from you. You have to stay in bounds, or you’re out.&uot;

The children and instructors roamed up, down and around the Fork court, until only three winners were left. &uot;I wasn’t scared,&uot; said Shaun Faulk, 5. &uot;I was never scared. I just held the ball right and ran away from them. It was fun, ’cause everybody was running fast.&uot;

Throughout the event, Baker had taught the students several useful skills on the court. As it drew to a close, he helped them learn several talents that would be handy in every aspect of their lives.

&uot;I want you to know that your most important resource is your mind,&uot; he said. &uot;I want someone to tell me a skill that they learned today that will help them not just on the court, but in life itself.&uot;

A few seconds later, a child’s voice piped up: &uot;Listening!&uot;

&uot;That’s right!&uot; Baker proclaimed, handing the victor a sports card as a prize.

&uot;If I told you to take this, you probably would, wouldn’t you?&uot; he jokingly asked, pulling a $10 bill from his pocket. The students answered loudly in the affirmative, reaching for the monetary unit.

Baker wiped the bill through his sweaty hair, dropped it to the ground, and stomped on it. &uot;Now who wants it?&uot; he asked. Far fewer voices were heard.

&uot;Bad things have happened to this,&uot; he said of the bill, &uot;but it still has value. When bad things happen to you, that’s called negative things, or adversity. But life goes on, and whatever happens to you, you’ll always have value. If you keep on working, you’ll always have value. Never stop believing in yourself.

&uot;I hope they start to work on their (basketball) game by themselves,&uot; he said afterward. &uot;I hope that they can learn that no matter what they go through, they’ll always be worth something. At their age, we need to build them up and give them some resources to make their own decisions. Kids can get a lot out of having good role models.&uot;

Booker T. Washington Elementary School student Jamael Lunsford hoped to use his new techniques in class. &uot;I learned to listen really well,&uot; said the 7-year-old, &uot;because if you listen, you learn better. I’m going to listen more in school from now on.&uot;