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Using basketball to build strong mental health practices

Posted at 11:42 PM, May 13, 2019
and last updated 2019-05-14 12:51:49-04

BALTIMORE — At the Give N’ Grow basketball clinic at the New Era Blacktop in Cherry Hill, kids were learning how to rebound from the hard realities that life can bring.

“I gotta focus on my game and I gotta make sure I do things right instead of doing the wrong things,” said 12-year-old Demonde Johnson, who attends Curtis Bay Elementary Middle School.

The clinic provided free mental health and basketball training for kids from around the city, giving the kids what they want by improving their game, while coaching them on mental health skills they need for life.

“Emotional intelligence and so a big part of emotional intelligence is empathy,” Give N’ Grow Founder Ben Cecchini said. “Being able to listen to somebody, hear what they are saying and feel what they are feeling.”

The coaches played a picked game and went through six drills aimed at targeting different mental health aspects.

“They are going to be sharing their emotions,” said Cecchini. “I’m going to be saying, 'I feel happy; I feel confident; I feel strong.' On the way back, to make sure the other partner was listening, teaching the empathy skill, they’re going to be repeating back the emotions that they heard.”

Ryan McFarland, one of the coaches at Give N’ Grow, says it helps to shift from emotions that are ineffective like sadness, anger, and frustration.

“Confidence can be created,” said McFarland. "A lot of kids in the basketball realm, 'what do you struggle with the most?' 'Well I’m not confident in myself.' That’s where positive self-talk comes into play. 'I’m the best shooter in the gym. I’m a beast I’m unstoppable.'”

Give N' Grow has partnerships that help young people get scholarships and links them with free online mental health training from psychologists and mental health coaches that work with professional athletes.

To learn more about Give N’ Grow Basketball click here.