“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.
Project Bridge—a program that provides transitional services to young people reintegrating back to their homes from juvenile justice programs—partnered with JLM Records to host its first 3-on-3 basketball tournament. Lakeland’s Simpson Park Community Center was the site for the event, and there are plans to rotate the location as they organize future tournaments.
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.