NYer Of The Week: Ken McGrory Helps Youths With Disabilities Build Skills Through Basketball
It's more than dribbling and drills at one basketball court on Manhattan's Upper West Side, thanks to this week's New Yorker, who's helping young players with disabilities build their confidence and social skills. NY1's Roma Torre filed the following report.
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Nothing gets in the way of Ken McGrory’s love for basketball.
"I've played basketball my whole life. At 17, I had an accident to my right arm, so I learned to play basketball all over again left-handed," he says. "An injury should not stop you, or a perceived disability should not stop you from trying something that you want to do."
Today, McGrory shares that lesson by coaching young players with special needs.
"There are players that are on all levels of the autism spectrum," McGrory says. "We have players who have physical disabilities, and perhaps, we have a number of players who have brain issues. Typically, they would not be invited to play in a in a typical league because of whatever issues they may have. I think it's inside of me that I encourage every single kid to do their best."
With this in mind, in 1999, Ken started a program within the Safe Haven Westside Basketball League, giving these players a court of their own every Saturday.
"I feel like Superman," says Marcos Azevedo, who participates in the program. "It's amazing and surreal. Because it's like, when I'm up there, everybody is looking at me, like, amazed and everything. And this is the only time that I can feel I can show what I got."
It’s more than dribbling, passing and shooting on this court.
"I have a player who, for the first four years of his involvement with us, would not participate, and basically, would curse out anyone who tried to encourage him," McGrory says. "Two weeks ago, he was in a position to shoot a half-court basket at the end of a game to tie the game, and it was probably the greatest moment of his life. And after he made the shot and high-fived all of his teammates, he ran across the gym and leaped into his father's arms. It was one of the greatest moments we've had in the basketball program."
So, for coaching young athletes through adversity, Ken McGrory is our New Yorker of the Week.
For more information on this program and others at the Safe Haven West Side Basketball League, go to safehavenhoops.org.