Step up or step aside: coaching a youth basketball team

Photo by A.J. Feather.  Karen Mitchell, left, hands a T-shirt to team member KeJuane Johnson, center, as John Williamson (11) looks on Tuesday, June 25, 2013 at Douglass Park in Columbia, Mo. Mitchell is one of the coaches for the city's Moonlight Hoops program at the park.

Handing out a T-shirt to team member KeJuane Johnson, center, as John Williamson (11) looks on Tuesday, June 25, 2013 at Douglass Park in Columbia, Mo. I was one of four coaches for the city’s Moonlight Hoops program on the first day of the league.

Photo by A.J. Feather.

Lately I’ve been wondering about whether I consider Columbia, Mo., a home or just a temporary stop. The problem is that I’ve been here 10 years now. That’s a pretty good commitment, not generally considered a temporary length of time. But Columbia doesn’t feel like a home to me.

But last week something happened that seems to indicate that I am thinking of Columbia as something more than a temporary place to be. The annual summer basketball program, Moonlight Hoops, was facing the possibility of canceling. This program is a Columbia staple. This town is dead in the summer, Hoops is one of few things that’s happening. But the program is more than just something for ballers to do in the summer.

Two unusual things happened last week: I became involved and I did a story on it. The story, done with two of my Convergence Reporting students, was published by our newspaper organization, the Columbia Missourian. Here’s the result (below, or go to the Missourian site.)

Karen Mitchell came to Columbia in July 2003 to attend MU as a full-time undergraduate and then master’s student. She joined the faculty of the School of Journalism in 2008. Her background is in photojournalism, and she teaches convergence journalism. She no longer works full time in a newsroom.

Karen’s first-person story follows, with photos and video from two of her students, A.J. Feather and Daniel Shapiro.

I don’t live anywhere near Douglass Park, but as a journalist in Columbia I’m well aware of the park and what it brings to the community. The park has a bad reputation, but there are also a lot of good things that go on there, too. One of them is the Moonlight Hoops basketball program. When I heard last week that the program might have to be canceled, I wondered why. The answer surprised me and encouraged me to contribute to the city in a way I never had before.

ABOUT THE PROGRAM: The Moonlight Hoops basketball program, run by the city, has games on Tuesday and Wednesday nights for three or four hours each evening. Karen Mitchell coaches the white team, sponsored by Columbia accounting firm Marberry & Eagle. Coaches and sponsors are still needed to accommodate the number of players who would like to play. The league, which was started by Tracy Edwards, Scotty Williams and Rodney Estes about 25 years ago, runs through Wednesday, Aug. 14.


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