Players attend workshops before every league game
Before players start their first session of Twilight Basketball, they might think the summer league is a time to relax and goof around with their friends. But one meeting with Ginsi Bryant fixes that right away.
Bryant, the program’s director, gives each team an orientation before its first game at James Kenney Park. With 14 rules written down and her forceful personality on display, she lets each and every kid know that she means business.
“You should treat this league like a job,” Bryant says to a room full of 14- and 15-year-olds. “You get here on time, or you don’t play. That’s it. Don’t come crying to me with excuses if you’re not here.”
Players don’t just have to be on time for their games. They must attend a “rap session” during the hour before their weekly game, with guest speakers expounding on topics such as drug use, street violence and study habits. Only then will they be allowed to play in a game with their team.
Other rules include no loitering outside the gym, no food in the gym and absolutely no fighting. Bryant said that any fight would result in all three levels of the league being suspended for one week. The age groups are 11-13, 14-15 and 16-18.
“People around here have been trying to shut this program down. We can’t give them any reason to complain,” she said. “So don’t be yelling down the street to Joe Blow just because you see him.”
Bryant’s rules came into focus right away on Thursday, the league’s opening night. Only four members of Student Athletes showed up for the orientation meeting, so they were forced to play their game short-handed. One team member showed up at game time, but spent the game on the bench in street clothes, proving that Bryant means business.
“Ginsi is a great coordinator, and we all respect her rules in this league,” said Sam Robinson, the coach of Student Athletes. “She teaches the kids to keep a schedule, that they are students first and athletes second.”
Robinson, who is retired, said he put his team in the league for both the educational and athletic opportunities it provides.
“It gives the guys a chance to continue to work out during the summer, which is good for their games,” he said. “But the workshops can be helpful if the kids will pay attention.”
One of Robinson’s players, Marcel Edwards-Gray, played in the league last summer. He said the rap sessions were hit and miss.
“We really only had one guest speaker last year, just some guy talking about his choices in life,” Edwards-Gray, 15, said. “Hopefully it’ll be more fun and more helpful this year.”
Robinson’s team didn’t suffer too much being down to four players. They still managed to beat their opening night opponents, EODYC Hoyas, by six points. The basketball was hard and clean, with two officials keeping things fair.
“It’s a good league, a competitive league,” Edwards-Gray said. “It’s a lot of fun to play here.”