Norris Elementary students had stars in their eyes and big dreams on their minds after hearing a motivational message during their Red Ribbon kick-off rally last Friday. The speaker told the fourth and fifth graders that they can learn anything and do anything if they put their minds to it and make the right choices. And they hung onto every word, because it was former Harlem Globetrotter Michael Douglas who was saying it.
"I've seen him on TV before, and he's an amazing player," GregTavious Davis, 9, said after the rally. "I think he's the most intelligent guy I've ever seen or heard."
Douglas told the students about the globetrotters being known all over the world for their "magical style of basketball," being the winningest team in sports history with over 22,000 wins, and about his personal experience in 1986 being one of three players selected for the team during a tryout with 1,500 candidates.
"Since then, I've traveled to over 100 countries to play basketball," he said to the students. "If you've studied about a country, I've been there. All because I had a dream."
Douglas said he didn't start preparing for his dream the day he tried out for the Globetrotters. He began when he was 7-years-old, practicing every day. The 6 ft. 3 in. player said he didn't become a Globetrotter until he was 24-years-old.
"That's a lot of years of preparation for realizing my dream," he said. "That's what you are doing here today, preparing for your future. Whatever you choose to do, they are going to select only the best. ... You are our next set of great doctors, lawyers, police officers and teachers. You are our future. If everyone here is successful, then the whole country is successful."
Douglas reminded the students to believe in themselves, work harder than they've ever worked in their lives before and that life is not going to be easy even if they do everything right. He described the language barriers he experienced when he first began traveling to other countries, and how he had to buy and study books for each language.
"Life presents obstacles," he said. "Repeat after me: If it's to be, it's up to me. It's not up to my parents, not up to my teachers, not up to my friends. If it's to be, it's up to me. That's it."
And that was the lesson that fourth-grader GregTavious took to heart. GregTavious said he realized during the rally that he could choose the direction of his future.
"It's up to me what I want to be when I grow up, not my parents. I want to be a professional basketball player, or at least an Olympics basketball player. I'm going to practice every day," he said.
At different intervals during his presentation, Douglas had students out on the court to play different basketball activities with him. To go along with the theme of Red Ribbon Week, he talked to the children about taking care of their bodies and of each other. He also encouraged a lot of participation from the audience in his discussions. A question-and-answer period and an autograph session was held at the end of the rally.
"The kids were making my job easier," Douglas said in an interview after the rally. "I got a lot of energy from them."
Douglas and other basketball legends travel to schools all over the country for the Michael Douglas Youth Foundation to present activities that are fun, educational and provide a model for healthy, successful living.
He came to NES at the invitation of Pam Graziano, counselor, according to Principal Nancy Lovelady.