Monrovia basketball clinic reaches far beyond sports

By Kevin Smith, Staff Writer Posted: 08/27/2010 06:30:00 PM PDT

MONROVIA - Some people look at at-risk children and see challenges - obstacles that could block their path to success.

But Rodney Jefferson sees opportunities.

As the owner and director of the "A" Game Fundamentals Basketball Clinic in Monrovia, the Duarte resident is out to not only teach coemptive basketball, but to ensure that his students are on a positive academic track.

"Anyone can teach basketball," Jefferson said. "But we develop kids for multiple sports. And we teach them discipline, character and give them life skills."

Established in 2000, Jefferson's summer clinic is held at Santa Fe Middle School in Monrovia, catering to boys and girls in grades 5 through 11.

The one-week clinic runs from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. Monday through Friday. This year's session included 55 students.

"I created this program to fill a void in the community," Jefferson explained. "There weren't a lot of programs for kids during the summer, and none that offered something like this. It's low-cost, the lunches are free and all the water and sodas are free. We also give out a lot of prizes."

Program participants also get free T-shirts, posters and other materials that are donated by the Los Angeles Lakers and Los Angeles Clippers.

Guest speakers for the program have included Ann Meyers Drysdale, general manager of the Phoenix Mercury WMBA team; Chief Roberta A. Abner of the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department; and Kim Rhode, a member of the U.S. Olympic Shooting Team, among others.

More importantly, they develop self confidence and skills they can carry over into other areas of their lives.

Trophies for the program are donated by Shaffer Awards in Monrovia. When a child receives recognition it can do wonders for their self esteem, according to Jefferson.

"For a 10- or 11-year-old kid to get an award ... that is huge, bro," he said.

Dima Haddad, a 5th grader at Royal Oak Elementary School in Duarte, started the "A" Game Fundamentals Basketball Clinic last year with her brother and cousin.

"It was really fun and competitive," she said. "The best thing about it are the basketball games. I really liked that and the scrimmages."

Haddad said Jefferson also promotes a positive message.

"He said to do better in school - to stay in school and get good grades," she said.

The life-skills component of the clinic is designed to encourage positive life choices, reduce gang recruitment, discourage drug and alcohol usage and educate students about career opportunities.

The program only runs for one week, but Jefferson's involvement with the students goes much further.

"I run around to all kinds of cities and follow these kids," he said. "If a kid is getting ready for the SATs, we provide a tutor for that. We have students from Division 1 schools who love to come out and tutor these kids. And I also help educate the parents so they can be more helpful to their kids."

Jefferson's program has received a slew of honors and awards over the years, but one of the biggest came this month then the program was honored by Rep. Judy Chu, D-El Monte, as the "DiverCities Non-Profit of the Year."