The sound of bouncing balls mingled with shouts of children playing at the basketball court at 24 Hour Fitness in Shawnee. But when the whistle blew, the 50 kids on the court gave their attention to the two Harlem Globetrotters in their midst.
The famous exhibition team conducts clinics for kids all over the country, in partnership with 24 Hour Fitness. They held nine such clinics in Lee’s Summit last week and another nine in Shawnee.
Kids might not learn to twirl a basketball on one finger here, but that’s not the point of the event.
“You come out here, and you’re going to have fun,” said Derick Grant, a seven-year veteran of the Globetrotters. “These kids don’t even realize they’re exercising, because they’re having fun doing it.”
It seemed to be working on Thursday afternoon. Grant and Shane Christensen, who go by the Globetrotter nicknames Dizzy and Scooter, led the group of boys and girls, ranging from age 6 to 12, in stretches before starting them on simple passing drills.
“We have kids who play all the time, and we have kids who’ve never touched a basketball,” Grant said.
Leesandra Jones of Kansas City, Kan., brought her 8-year-old son J’Toriyan to the clinic to have fun but also because his late father loved the Globetrotters.
“This is a special gift to him from me,” Jones said. “He’s learning stuff I hoped he’d learn, because he’s on the basketball team at the YMCA.”
Roger Mail’s two grandsons, 9-year-old Griffin Gross and 7-year-old Gannon Gross of Olathe, are huge Globetrotter fans, having attended the team’s exhibitions for several years.
“They’ve seen the show, but they’ve never done anything like this,” Mail said.
After working on basic skills, the Globetrotters split the kids into teams and had them try to get 10 baskets in a row before the other team.
Each time a team lost, the kids — and the Globetrotter coaching them — had to do five push-ups. Unfortunately for them, it was the same team five times in a row.
“Life is unlucky sometimes,” Grant said. “I try to teach them that even though we’re not winning, you give it your all.”
Usually it’s the kids who are in awe of the Globetrotters, but every now and then, the team finds kids who impress them with “the Globetrotter spirit.”
Dorian Harris, 10, who alerted his family to a fire in their Kansas City, Kan., apartment building last month and managed to get the whole family out safely, is one of those kids. The team decided to give Dorian the Junior Phenom award, which goes to kids who demonstrate community spirit, good teamwork and a willingness to help others.
Although Dorian couldn’t make it to the clinic to accept the award, the Globetrotters have mailed it to him along with the team’s trademark wristbands and head band, a T-shirt and an invitation to see the team’s next Kansas City exhibition.