I started a program at the Cheviot Hills Recreation Center, a local park in Los Angeles, called Benchwarmers Basketball. It allows kids that are not very athletic to play basketball with kids that are at the same level. It is for kids aged 8 to 14. I am both the founder and an active volunteer. My philosophy is that the best way to run the program is to let kids play actual games. Drills and instruction have their place, but most of the time should be spent playing. No kid should ever be sitting out.
Uncoordinated as a child, I was motivated to play sports, but was overlooked by my peers. Academically I was an excellent student all the way through college. Nobody focused on my lack of ability in sports as a problem; but to me and my peers, sports ability was a big deal and my inability to play was detrimental to my self-esteem. I am 73 and retired from a career as an engineer. I always had a burning desire to help kids who are like me. Since starting Benchwarmers Basketball in 2007, I found that there are many kids out there who fit this profile. I believe that it is just as important to help kids in this area as it is to help them in academic endeavors.
Benchwarmers’ impact has been amazing. One of the parents told me I saved her kid’s life. Some parents say that Benchwarmers has made their kids feel more normal and has helped them socially. As far as the impact on me, all I can say that I have succeeded beyond my wildest dreams. I always was thinking about this but was too busy with work.
I am not trying to just build self-confidence (although that is a big part of it), but also trying to have these kids improve their skills and actually get better at sports. These kids start out behind and fall further behind because they don’t get the same opportunities as athletic kids. I have seen kids really improve after a while. In fact, some of the kids have “graduated” from Benchwarmers and are now playing in the basketball league at the park. A couple of the older kids now help me as assistant coaches, and I’m working to expand the program to other places.
Watch this video on YouTube to learn more about Benchwarmers.