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Vancouver Basketball Program Aims to Make the Sport Accessible to Everyone

September 28th, 2017

Two basketball stars are involving the community in their goal of ensuring all kids have equal opportunity in sport

Founders of Day One basketball, Jennifer Ju and Joey Haywood, developed the program with the belief that all athletes should have equal access to top-notch training, and quality coaching, regardless of their financial background.

“Day One allows kids the opportunity to participate in really good camps, and develop their skills without having to spend a lot of money,” Haywood say of what the program aims to achieve. “If the kids have dreams to accomplish big things with basketball, this [program] gives them the opportunity to live their dreams, but also just live a healthy lifestyle.”

Having both grown up facing challenges, Ju and Haywood are well versed in overcoming adversity, and want to support kids in Vancouver area who are facing similar obstacles.

“We want to instill a lot of confidence in the kids. We want them to feel cared for and feel like they can pursue their goals without barriers,” Ju said of how the program supports the athletes, “without the support of our community Joey and I wouldn’t be where we are today—whether it be moral, or financial support—so we want to take this opportunity to give back.”

The program is carefully constructed and caters to athletes in grade five through 12, with each day of camp having a theme that helps put the pieces of the game together. Beginning at ‘getting acquainted’, and moving through defense, shooting, the mental game, and game play, the program is comprehensive and structured to help participants succeed.

Ju has a background in childcare and development that she incorporates into the program, “although younger kids absorb quickly, you can’t treat them like they’ve had the same exposure that the older kids have had,” Ju said about how she looks at the different age groups, “when talking about coaching style you have to make sure that you’re catering to each individual child’s development period and have to understand that every kids understanding and ability to learn differs, so we always start at a fundamental level and work our way up.”

Jennifer Ju is best known for her impressive four-year season at Thompson Rivers University where she was a CIS featured player, and was recognized with several CIS ‘player of the game’ honors, but her journey to get there wasn’t easy.

Having grown up in Vancouver’s downtown eastside, with parents who didn’t support her decision to play basketball, Ju learned quickly the value of hard work, and relied on support from role models in her community.

“For me being a role model is so important because when I was growing up I had a couple of people that really changed my life,” Ju said of the support she found, outside of her family, “I saw first hand how effective it is to be a positive role model and touch the lives of kids and youth.”

Ju’s partner at Day One, Joey Haywood, grew up in Burnaby, and fell in love with the game after watching his older brother play. He admitted to not being able to afford camps or clinics due to financial restrictions, but that didn’t stop him from committing himself to the game.

He earned the nickname ‘King Handles’ due to his impressive ball handling skills and, after competing internationally, he returned home. Haywood now plays in the NBL for the Halifax Hurricanes, and has been recognized as a two-time NBL Canada All-Star, a two-time NBL Canada Canadian of the year, and was a two-time member of the NBL Canada All-Canada Team.

For Haywood, being apart of the program means teaching kids value, “having respect for others and working hard is what’s important. If I had never respected anyone, I don’t think I’d be able to have gotten to where I am now,” Haywood said of the kind of role model he hopes to be, “I want kids to look up to me, but specifically, I want them to look at my manor, and how I treat people and how I treat the game.”

Day One is hosting a free community event this Saturday, September 30th at Mount Pleasant Park alongside Haywood and his original street ball team, “it’s important to connect the community with these athletes, because we need their support and the kids need that to feel what they’re doing is important,” Ju said.

The event starts at 11:30, and will feature a free clinic in the morning, and fundraising activities in the afternoon, including a shoot-a-thon, and a game that will feature Haywood alongside some of Vancouver’s most talented players.

Written By: Sarah Reid

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