In many communities across the United States, basketball is a common sport. It doesn’t take much effort to convince children to play it. Many of those children may even see themselves as one day becoming a major player for the New York Knicks or the Miami Heat.
Yet, 29-year old Ian Thomas-Minor, who played college basketball, is inspiring kids to invest in their future by having a back-up plan.
Last summer, Minor hosted the First Annual Battle in the Bluffs, a two-day free basketball camp and tournament that encourages kids to consider what they need to be successful in basketball and use that in their everyday lives.
The camp and tournament, a first attempt by Minor to provide children on the island of Martha’s Vineyard with positive lessons he learned in basketball, is a product, which stems from Minor’s own experiences in basketball.
A Communications major, who graduated with a BA from Molloy College, Ian Thomas-Minor and his business partner, Arthur Andrews, who also played college basketball and graduated from George Washington University with a Finance degree, began developing the project a few years ago after reminiscing with other basketball players about the tournaments they had attended as younger men.
It wasn’t long before Minor began to put his ideas into motion, and with Andrews working behind the scenes, the two of them held the successful event in the summer of 2012 that saw more than fifty youngsters attending.
During the event, there were guest speakers Gary Deberry, a former Queens College basketball player who now works on Wall Street. Deberry spoke to the children about how to excel in more than just sports. This understanding is crucial according to Minor, who says that children must be taught practical skills. Minor call this ”an act of love”.
“We’re trying to change children’s lives. The reality is that most kids aren’t going to be the next Lebron James. So we’re helping them to get ready for the real world.”
Minor, who has spent much of his life either visiting or living in the town of Oak Bluffs, Massachusetts on Martha’s Vineyard, thought it would be the perfect venue for the tournament.
“Kids from all over the country come to visit the Vineyard every summer for vacation. This works well for the camp because the children are taught to work as a team and become comfortable working with others from different communities, cultures and backgrounds.”
Both Minor and Andrews believe that this prepares kids for a diverse workplace when they become adults.
“The title of the event may be Battle in the Bluffs,” explains Andrews, but it’s really about learning how to resolve conflict without being aggressive. They can learn basic basketball skills anywhere. But here, we want them to learn social skills and translate that into the rest of their lives.”
After learning lessons on basketball, teamwork and life in general from the speakers, the children spend the last day of camp playing basketball in the early part of the day, and then watching their new mentors play in an adult tournament. This arguably gives the children a chance to see the coaches put their own ideas into practice.
When choosing his coaches, Minor didn’t only reach for friends to act as mentors for the kids, but recruited family as well. Both of his younger sisters, who have played college ball and are recent graduates, were coaches at last year’s game. His youngest sister, Kia Minor, who just graduated with a BA in Education, has coached kids in summer camps for the past several years.
“To see all the parents here supporting the children is really encouraging,“ said Kia at the event last summer. “It’s great when you give back to the community and it’s appreciated.”
Hailee Minor, who graduated with a BA in Sociology, describes herself as a ‘proud little sister’ after seeing what her brother was able to accomplish. Yet, Ian Thomas-Minor doesn’t see the camp as his own accomplishment, but as a vehicle to show kids what they can accomplish.
“Your mistakes don’t define you. It’s what you do after your mistake that matters. If you fall down, get up, and then define your own success. That’s what I want kids to know.”
Minor is confident that there will be plenty of support from the Martha’s Vineyard community this year.
“We get the businesses on the island involved in the camp by giving them the opportunity to donate their time or money towards the children who come here.”
The Second Annual Battle in the Bluffs camp and tournament will take place on July 5th and 6th in the town of Oak Bluffs in Niantic Park.
For more information about the camp and tournament, please visit battleinthebluffs.org. To donate to the event or to volunteer your time, please contact Ian Thomas-Minor or Arthur Andrews at (917) 291-9401.