Growing up the ultimate test of a player’s ability was to compete in a summer tournament, where no one gets home court advantage.
Events such as Midnight Madness and Hosana Ballers Evenings were a chance not only to gauge progress against others of the same age, but to see who could hang with the pro’s. For me, it had an additional benefit — to see how an experience crafted with passion and care, could provide so many an environment in which to both compete and relax in equal measure; an art form in itself that intrigued and inspired me.
During Ballers Evenings, three courts were divided up by ability, each court the stepping stone to the next. Only those sure of their abilities — or blissfully unaware of their weaknesses — would add their name to the list for pro court. For me, watching the pro court was almost as rewarding as playing.
Seasoned pro’s — the likes of Junior Williams, Ronnie Baker, Michael Martin etc — commanded the court as if they acquired it with their own money; in many ways they had, paying the price of commitment and overcoming the hurdles of their day, to earn their reputation. They exuded confidence but were never arrogant.
Conversely, I watched as players of my own age portrayed the same sense of ownership but with an air of entitlement. The distinction was that they clearly hadn’t paid the price to earn what they’d been given. I heard them belittle not only younger players, but the advice given to them by their elders — as if proving them right would somehow diminish their own achievements. I couldn’t help but feel that their desire to do and be better was at odds with their attitude and that, ultimately, it would take someone from the same generation to readdress the playing field.
As we celebrate our twentieth year in the community, we understand the need for members of a family to function in their respective roles in order to achieve harmony as a unit. That means understanding, accepting and living the role each member is given. One can survive without the other, but each struggles to flourish in the others absence. Much like a team, the unit is stronger and stands the greatest chance of reaching its potential, when all five fingers of the hand work together.
Which is why players must learn to respect each other’s position and understand their respective roles in the wider context of this game we love.
There is a shared sense of humility, responsibility and respect; everything that FamFest seeks to celebrate.
That’s what fuelled the idea for FamFest seven years ago. Short for Family Festival, the aim was to bring the community together — the basketball community and the local community. It aimed to make it affordable for kids and their parents to see professional sport, and it be on their doorstep. It aimed to be an event that was cool to bring your mum and dad to(or your grandparents, in some cases). And, much like the events that have come before it, it aimed to be competitive whilst affording the players a chance to mentally unwind, enjoy each other’s company and celebrate the sport.
Eight events later and the core aim remains the same. I’m constantly impressed by everyone who participates — from a new generation forging their legacy through sheer will and determination to the elder statesmen passing the baton. There is a shared sense of humility, responsibility and respect; everything that FamFest seeks to celebrate.
So, as we prepare for event number nine, I figure those that went before me set about with similar goals. To celebrate what they love, but in doing so, change it for the better. So, respect where its due to the Roger Hosannahs, Nhamo Shires, Jackson Gibbons and more, who used (and are still using) the tools of their generation to make a meaningful difference and leave behind an ever lasting legacy.
FamFest is short for Family Festival; an annual gathering of professional basketball players, DJs and performers. It is one of the few events to feature such a wide age range of players and to be aimed at a family, non-basketball playing audience.