Every weekend, kids in the greater New York City area gather to play hoops. Even though ball is life, there’s more to this equation. The A&M Sports Academy is one of the best kept secrets in the nation. The instructional clinic, services student-athletes aged 9-18 through a hybrid mentoring program that attacks books,as well as the round orange ball.
Founded in 2008 by Ray Abellard and Andre Murray, A&M’s mission is to bring a diverse group of people together to create a new athletic adventure aimed at fostering self-confidence, discipline, a healthy and active lifestyle and establishing long term friendships through sports.
Andrew Becil, 18, had been a member of A&M since the 6th grade. Now a freshman at Kenyon College in Ohio, he sees how the program prepared him for life. “When I came here I thought it was just a basketball thing,” he said with a sly grin.“But I built a good relationship particularly with Dre. He always emphasized that there was more to it than just basketball. It was the lessons that he taught us about life.”
“We wanted to not only help the kids from the inner city, but kids all over,” said A&M co-founder Ray Abellard. “Basically, we transformed the program around our five pillars.”
Those five pillars include: grit, loyalty, respect, confidence and determination.
“A&M is a huge sports organization built for confidence and leadership development,” said A&M’s other co-founder Andre Murray. “So for a lot of our young athletes who aspire to do something with their lives, we’re able to help them master the game of life through basketball.”
Those lessons were on full display on Saturday March 18 at the Dalton School in Manhattan’s Upper East Side where A&M Sports Academy hosted their March Madness Fundraiser. The fundraiser was a meet and greet that housed games, fun, food, excitement. It also zeroed in on their yearly travel program to Haiti.
The program also welcomed retired NBA player, Derek Anderson as it’s keynote speaker. Drafted with the 13th pick in the 1997 NBA Draft, Anderson laid out a plan to play in the NBA for ten years and then branch off into a multitude of other business ventures. ”Once I heard about the program and did some research I felt like it was a good fit,” Anderson told me.
Before the glitz and glamor of the NBA life, Anderson was a parent by the age of fourteen, had been shot and stabbed and lost his mom to substance abuse. These days he’s promoting his book, Stamina and promotes his Stamina Academy through its A.O.K program. A.O.K., an acronym for Acts of Kindness is a key component to the Stamina Academy and Stamina Foundation, which teaches youth and young adults how to react in today’s society.
“Fame does not equal success! Your character does!”
— 👑 Brandon Robinson (@ScoopB) March 18, 2017
Saturday was a chance for him to drop knowledge, play some hoops and reminisce on his career, while sharing what he learned along the way.
A poignant moment came when Anderson shared a story with the kids in the A&M Sports Academy of how learned how to manage and save money. That first lesson came when he worked outside of a local grocery store in his hometown Louisville, Kentucky charging patrons a reasonable amount to carry groceries to their car from their shopping cart. He told folks in attendance that upon making his first $3, he went to the grocery store and bought bread and cold cuts, which lasted him for many days, rather than spending the money on a value meal at a local chain restaurant, which would have lasted him a day.
He also shared that he’s never used drugs or alcohol, he doesn’t curse and he’s never tasted Coca-Cola or Pepsi. He was pleased with the day’s turnout and what people gathered from it. “I think they left with a purpose of I need to finish what I start,” said Anderson.“And also: ‘I need to change my attitude if I want to win.’ Those two things have always been key.”
“What you think about is what you become?” pic.twitter.com/vrBWbyrJUj
— 👑 Brandon Robinson (@ScoopB) March 18, 2017
After Anderson’s speech, he signed paraphernalia, chatted with parents and everybody ate. A&M board member, Eric Parler, an executive with Def Jam made sure that the fundraiser had key ingredients like finger food from Wingstop. Parler joined on with A&M in 2009 and digs the five pillars of the program and the camaraderie. “I admired what they were doing and I just wanted to be apart,” he said.
“I wanted to get in and put in what was needed.”
Teamwork made the dream work.
For more information on A&M Sports Academy visit: Anmsportsacademy.com
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