Team Swoop youth basketball program builds strong character and winning attitudes on and off the court
Team Swoop is honored by the City Commission of Fort Lauderdale as Sixth Grade State Champions.
Team Swoop provides a positive environment that includes a mentoring program, community service opportunities, and promotes academic achievement.
By Charles Moseley
Ask any baby boomer from my generation who they pretended to be as a kid and they’ll probably say either fictional heroes such as Roy Rogers or the Lone Ranger or perhaps Superman or Batman. Fast forward a half century and today’s younger generation would quickly tell you in a flash LeBron James, Steph Curry, or Dwayne Wade.
Unfortunately, not everyone will grow up to be a superstar athlete but they can grow up to be successful and productive members in society who make a difference in their communities. Youth sports can help shape and develop our children into productive adults by providing positive role models.
Needless to say, youth sports have grown to become a national pastime but all programs are not created equal. Thankfully there are some out there that put the growth and development of young people as their number one priority and where winning the game is fun but more importantly where winning in the game of life takes precedence. Team Swoop is one such program.
The story behind Team Swoop is a fascinating one. It not only exemplifies the right way to go about running a youth sporting organization but how it can impact the lives of young people who participate and the community at large.
Team Swoop’s staff includes the following: Alen Hardy, president/ head coach; Adam Klauber, vice president/general counsel/assistant coach; Debbie Klauber, secretary; Michelle Hartmann, treasurer; Zach Cardone, director of sports performance; Javier Frazier, seventh grade head coach; Jabari Caldwell, assistant seventh grade coach; Anthony Hardy – assistant coach.
Team Swoop Head Coach Alen Hardy recently shared his thoughts with the Westside Gazette on the youth basketball program he initiated and provided some insight into the world of organized youth sports.
Westside Gazette: How did Team Swoop come about?
Coach Hardy: This is such a great story that I actually wrote a book about it. You can see it at http://teamswoop.net/the-golden-child/. It’s an easy read that only takes 20 minutes or so but it would be well worth the time if you really want to capture the essence of our organization. To sum it up, Team Swoop was inspired by a fourth grade kid named Max who has cystic fibrosis. I coached him at a basketball camp and the kid really inspired me. He became a little brother to me.
Kids with cystic fibrosis have lots of challenges and don’t typically excel in sports. I didn’t know he had it until I met his dad (Adam) and he told me that for Max to be playing basketball at any level was a blessing. I told Adam that I always dreamed about having my own travel ball organization. But, I never dreamed that it would be like this.
Adam and I decided to build something different. Some-thing bigger than basketball that would let us mentor kids, provide role models and life changing experiences. Adam had the finances and business background to get it off the ground and I had the basketball expertise. Both of us had coached hundreds of kids in the past and we had a passion for it. So we started Team Swoop and since day one we’ve been accomplishing great things.
W.G.: What makes what your organization offer so unique?
Coach Hardy: Team Swoop is unique because we focus on improving the health, academic achievement and quality of life for kids who don’t have the means to do it themselves. Basketball is the tool that al-lows us to provide life-changing experiences under the guidance of a dedicated, diverse group of adults who are committed to improving the lives of young people. When you combine those things with a family atmosphere and intense, well-planned training, success is inevitable.
We’ve proven that by producing one undefeated state championship team and another that finished in the top four. But, more importantly, we’ve proven it by seeing grade point averages rise over the course of the season, watching kids change their behavior at home and at school and by get-ting positive feedback from the parents and other caretakers about how much the program is doing for their son mentally and physically.
W.G.: What has been your biggest challenge as the leader of Team Swoop?
Coach Hardy: As leaders of this organization our biggest challenge has been the amount of time and commitment it takes to do things the right way. At times we have to put our own lives and our families on hold so we can dedicate the time and resources needed. Considering that what we’re working for is the opportunity to impact a kid and positively shape his future, the stakes are high but the reward is immeasurable.
Winning basketball games is easy compared to the challenge of being the only positive role model in someone’s life. It’s a serious commitment. Life often presents shortcuts, but we know that most of them aren’t worth taking. So we try to do every-thing the right way and that takes a lot of time and dedication. It also takes the ability to see things a different way, to learn from mistakes and to trust that the best way isn’t always the easy way.
W.G.: What have been your proudest moments since Team Swoop began?
Coach Hardy: There are so
many but four of them stand out to me. (1) One of our kids who come from a low income family has very young parents. They had him when they were 14. His dad has been incarcerated several times and he doesn’t have a positive male role model. We insisted that he improve his grades to maintain a spot on our roster and he worked really hard to do that.
When he got his report card, he was so proud to come show it to me because he improved every grade except one. Shortly after that he was at Coach Adam’s house after a tournament win, enjoying a celebratory dinner and he hugged Coach Adam and said “Coach, I never had anything like this in my life. This makes me feel really special.”
(2) One of our kids has an absent dad who doesn’t support him emotionally or financially. After an out of town event, I received a text from his mom that said,” I will never be able to repay you for what you do supporting my son. He only has me in the stands but as far as male figures and role models he has no one but you guys. He is one of many kids you are influencing positively and helping improve their game while teaching life lessons bigger than basket-ball. You never really know the lives you can touch by the things you guys do.”
(3) Being recognized by Proclamation by the Broward County Commission and having June 14 officially declared “Team Swoop Day” in Broward County. (4) Winning a state championship with an un-defeated record. We have been told that’s never been done and the league has been around since 1968.
W.G.: How can someone or an organization learn more about Team Swoop or assist your organization?
Coach Hardy: The best way to learn about us is by taking a few minutes to look through our website and reading The Golden Child. To assist us they can always make a donation. But, we also would like to hear from organizations who need our help. We do lots of community service work and one of the ways we influence our kids is by showing them how good it feels to help someone else. If there are any organizations out there who want some volunteers, please let us know.
W.G.: What are your future plans for Team Swoop?
Coach Hardy: Our main goal right now is to raise money so we can expand our program and reach more kids. This off-season we’re also putting in a new fitness and conditioning pro-gram that was designed by our fitness partner, Elevate Sports Performance. And, we’re going to spend some time educating our kids on the importance of proper nutrition. For next school year we want to expand our tutoring program so we can reach our goal of having no player with any grade less than a B. Our ultimate goal is to own our own facility and to see more teams adopt our model that puts the personal development of kids above everything else.