by Will Koppenhaver
“LifeHoops is an after school program in which we empower young men in the local community of Charlotte through our three pillars of Education, Respect, and Basketball.”
But how I wish I had more time to tell you.
Coach Will Kopenhaver shares his take on LifeHoops with Red Ventures employees.
Coach – Can I get a ride home?
Coach – Can I borrow your phone real quick to call my mom?
Coach – Can I get a dollar.
Coach Will, you’re trash.
Coach Will, let me get one more shot.
Coach Will, you can’t GUARD ME!
(Oh… Coach Will can kind of ball a little bit.)
“Come on come on let’s go let’s go!”
“Come on defense, get him!”
Pull your pants up.
Come on, quit sagging.
Ed – is it raining inside?
Take the hood off, please and thank you .
Respect your mother, because you only get one.
Coach – Can I talk to you for a second about school?
See, I got in trouble.
And see, what had happened was…
Coach – My dad’s in the hospital, and my family won’t tell me anything.
Coach – I can’t come to LifeHoops tomorrow because I’ve got to stay home
and take care of my baby sister.
Sitting in silence on the car ride home just to collect my thoughts .
LifeHoops is that call to Coach Rodney
in which he hits me with that same perfect question every single time I pitch an idea his way about LifeHoops.
LifeHoops is the fourth email to a school administrator in the same day.
It’s a meeting with Ric that always leaves me thinking the rest of the day.
It’s that Slack message from Zain at two in the morning that has me thinking whether this man is on the computer…
Or whether he literally IS a computer.
LifeHoops is that same tall, lanky privileged white boy that didn’t grow up in the cut
Yet still fell into drugs
Still got into stupid fights over girls
And still considered dropping out of school at the age of twelve, eighteen, and twenty-one.
Thinking through all that time when no one was there for me
And no one reached out to me
That I would be something different for other people when they need me.
And thinking through all those times when we tell our LifeHoops boys
to be for others what no one was for them, too.
Trying to fit that square piece in the triangle, and it just doesn’t feel like it’s working.
And yet weeks later, a parent comes up to you and tells you their kid is now considering college
Because of LifeHoops.
LifeHoops is Education, Respect, and Basketball.
Yet is so much more.
LifeHoops is Family, Trust, Service, Community,
Strength, Weakness, Leadership,
LifeHoops is a constant battle with outside forces in a system that’s built for us to fail.
Yeah I can see it clear as day in my mind as all of our boys walk across that stage
Some of them dancing
Reaching out to shake that hand of the same person who told them they wouldn’t amount to **** .
LifeHoops is realizing in the short time that you’ve been with your new family
As much as you’ve helped them grow, you look in the mirror and realize that you yourself have grown so much more than you ever thought you could.
LifeHoops is a poem by Clint Smith in which he says something I think embodies who our LifeHoops boys are perfectly:
He says an oyster’s pearls are formed from foreign parasites that have breached the boundaries of the shell.
To protect itself from the danger, the oyster cocoons itself in a calcium until the very thing trying to destroy it
Becomes the thing that makes it the most beautiful.
So what is LifeHoops?
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LifeHoops is a Charlotte-based program that combines basketball, mentorship, and academics. Its goal is to empower young men to achieve and inspire them to become leaders in their communities. LifeHoops is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization in partnership with the Charlotte YMCA to create a safe after-school environment where participants accelerate their academic achievements, learn what it means to be a part of a team, and enhance their basketball skills under guided coaching.