Posted on : Thursday February 8, 2018

By Scott Smith*

BALTIMORE, Md.—”Be gentle with that boy tonight…,” said Reggie, pointing to one of our 12U basketball kids.  I wondered why he was saying that. It’s unlike Reggie to go easy on any of the boys and J.R. was disrupting practice.

Last year The Broken Wall Project started a 15U (now 17U) basketball team. We began holding weekday practices at Mary E. Rodman Elementary because of a connection with Reggie Ferguson who is the head custodian there. (Reggie also happens to be the big brother of Hikeem, a regular at The Broken Wall). Soon, there were little cousins hanging around during practice.  Then there were friends of cousins. Groups of younger kids would bang on the door and occasionally a few slipped in. “Can WE play?” they constantly pleaded.

Their persistence paid off and Coach George started a “12U Broken Wall Ballers” team in the fall. My son Brandon and Coach George’s grandson Travis are a part of the team along with kids from Edmondson Village.  I’ve taken on the role of the head coach despite not knowing the first thing about basketball. That’s ok though . . . it’s not why we are here.

I pulled Big Reggie to the side and asked, “Why do I need to be gentle, what’s going on with J.R.?” He told me that J.R.’s father was locked up that very day.

Wow… Yes, the boy was having an off day for sure, but I had no clue!  To be honest I know little about the home lives of our boys. I have even less understanding of what it’s like growing up in West Baltimore. But I love these boys and I want them to know Jesus.

This is why the Broken Wall Ballers teams exist: “We want to reveal Jesus to our boys and develop life skills using basketball as a mechanism to build relationships.”
Coaches George, Mike, Moses, Terell and I have had some great opportunities to reveal Jesus. We pray before and after every practice and game. Some of the boys have gone with me straight from the game to attend Broken Wall worship for the first time. Soon, we will add scripture to practice as Coach Mike and George do with the 17U Ballers.
To build team spirit and deepen relationships we had a pizza party at our house. Our hope is to have these types of events on a monthly basis. I have spent hours in the car with many of them already.  I was taking Jaquel, another 12-year-old, home after worship the other night.  I asked, “What do you think about God, the Bible and what Pastor Ron said?” Jaquel is quiet.  He said, “I think it’s nice.”
Well, that’s a start.
Please pray for wisdom for us coaches and God’s power to work through scripture, prayer, and presence.
 *Name changed