Basketball Program Puts New Spin on Respect
“Don’t talk about it; be about it.”
That was Jim “Basketball” Jones’ message to the gathered group of Moreland Hills students. And they heeded the call…not by what he said but what he did.
“It was really fun and pretty cool when he spun the ball on his fingers and when he juggled the basketballs,” noted second grader Kaitlin Alarafi. “And through his actions I learned to be kind to others.”
Kaitlin definitely had her head in the game. By noting the importance of the words “thank you” during the assembly, Kaitlin was the first recipient of an autographed basketball. She attributes part of her politeness to her upbringing and part to the lessons taught as part of MHS’s ‘No Bullying Allowed’ (NBA) program. As part of NBA and through a PTA grant, Jones was brought to Moreland Hills School to present his character-building program to all of the students there.
“I think it’s really important that we teach kids what to do as opposed to telling them what to do,” Jones said. “Teach them. Let them feel it; let them experience it. And then they’re going to incorporate it.”
Jones, who has dyslexia and struggled in school as a child, developed the program 15 years ago, originally as a way to assist students with special needs. Eventually the program expanded, and he has now given more than 5000 presentations. Jones opened the Moreland Hills School program by inviting students up to spin a ball on their fingers. That was followed by a motivational program that taught students to respect not only the adult standing in front of them but also the classmates on either side of them. Basketball tricks including juggling, balancing, and even autographing one ball while another ball spun on the pen used to sign it incorporated student volunteers. Prizes for effort and appreciation such as pens, pencils and even basketballs were given to the students…who quickly realized the importance of teamwork and a kind word of gratitude.
“I think the important part of this program is we let kids experience character lessons as opposed to getting up and just talking about it. We really give kids the opportunities,” Jones added. “So when they apply themselves by saying ‘thank you’ or applying kindness, they usually get rewarded.”
“I liked that he taught us different cheers and how to be respectful and kind to people,” noted fifth grader Alexis Nicholas. “He showed me how to hold the ball in my finger and that showed how people can help you and teach you to do things to help you learn.”
Students were gently reminded to sit ‘criss-cross-applesauce’ to show respect. In a game of Simon Says, all students were “winners” when they missed a cue from ‘Simon’ and chose wisely to sit down…because that showed they were being honest and respectful.
“You learned how to work together with your friends, and you learn that you can trust your friends more. It’s not really fun to bully because you don’t feel that good about it,” said fifth grader Spencer Martyn. “Playing with the basketballs and the other games made it more interesting to listen so a lot of kids listened more carefully because it was fun to watch.”
“It really taught me something about no bullying,” said Martyn’s classmate Kenyon Russell. “You shouldn’t bully others. You should make them feel good.”
Feeling good about the choices students have in life is exactly what Jones’ program aspires to teach.
“I own my own future. I make my choices and my choices dictate what and where my life’s going to go,” said Jones. “But the big lesson I want to say to kids is that we own our own effort, regardless of what people are saying to you, how they pick on you or bully you, you are in control of your own destiny.”
To view the slideshow from the presentation including photos with Jones' nephew Corey who also worked with the students, please click on the photo below.