Hoop ‘Til It Hurts Foundation was built upon the belief that every child, both boys, and girls, deserve the opportunity to benefit from competing in basketball. Jade Hollyfield agrees.
Jade is the math special education teacher, the athletic director, and the 7th and 8th-grade girls’ basketball coach for the Dvorak Dolphins at Dvorak School of Excellence in Chicago. A passionate and committed youth educator, Jade has experienced first-hand the role basketball plays in positively shaping the life of an individual and of a team. So, when the Dvorak Dolphins found themselves in need of team uniforms, she reached out to Hoop ‘Til It Hurts Foundation.
Uniforms play an important role in basketball. It starts as a simple form of identity, enabling coaches, referees, and fans to differentiate between two teams. Basketball uniforms create unity for all players, fostering belonging, and camaraderie. From the star athlete to the beginner, uniforms create a sense of equality – each player is as important as the next. It is together that they develop a personal and team commitment to play hard and win. (1)
And win they did in the first season that Jade Hollyfield became a coach. Jade and the team took their winning streak that season all the way to the championship game. The second year, the exact opposite happened, as the Dolphins lost every single game and the school considered canceling the program. That is when something special happened. Previous players and girls who never played began contacting Jade saying they wanted to play, wanted to be part of the team. They rallied together to keep the Dolphins moving forward. In turn, Jade provided a space where each player was encouraged to play, “They may not have been good that day, but I told them to come back tomorrow and try again.” And they came back the next day. And the next.
While Jade focused on mentoring and coaching her team, she found her limited budget did not allow for team uniforms. The thought of playing against well-uniformed rivals created angst with the players. Jade reached out to the Hoop ‘Til It Hurts Foundation who provided the resources needed to purchase team uniforms. With the school name and mascot on the front and player number on the back, the uniforms created an identity. A sense of one. It also showed the girls that they were cared about outside their immediate circle. It encouraged a sense of value and pride and embraced how the girls feel about each other – that they are one cohesive family. Unity and Equality.
The support given by Hoop ‘Til It Hurts Foundation, Jade, and the Dvorak School of Excellence, has encouraged these girls to become the best version of themselves. Negative behaviors have dropped off and the girls are choosing to play a more positive role in the classroom and with their peers. They are becoming mentors themselves by modeling positive self-behaviors.
When the school closed in early 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Jade and new assistant coach Talana McPherson made sure that the physical separation did not affect the teams’ intent to remain as one. They set up weekly video calls through Google Hangouts to give the girls a chance to catch up, laugh, and support each other through this unique and anxious time. Now that the girls are back in school, even remotely, the coaches stay in contact with weekly emails and google meet checks to ensure their well-being both educationally and socially.
As a child, Jade spent a lot of time with her aunt who was a 4th-grade teacher. Although her aunt made teaching look fabulous, Jade thought she wanted a career in communications. Now looking back, Jade knows that being a teacher is what she was put here on earth to do. It’s her passion and the girls have benefitted from the commitment and love that Jade has for teaching and mentoring.
As the team continues to propel forward, Hoop ‘Til It Hurts Foundation will be there to support them in their journey. We have seen firsthand how the game of basketball, positive role models, and training on the court, lead to higher academic success and greater opportunities to succeed off the court in life.
ABOUT THE DVORAK SCHOOL OF EXCELLENCE
Dvorak School of Excellence will fully prepare our scholars for college and the workforce by providing a safe, rigorous learning environment with high expectations for all. We will partner with our community and families to ensure that our scholars are able to exceed standards and not just meet them. As a learning community, we will work together to prepare our students to be academically competitive with their peers worldwide and each of them will feel the love and commitment of our staff. Collectively, we will use each other as resources to create an exciting learning environment for our children and foster in them a thirst for knowledge that cannot be dampened by the social ills they confront each day.