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Timeless values and lessons through JCC Basketball

Posted by Mark Pattis on November 9, 2016

The Pittsburgh Clap, a rich tradition that ties decades of JCC basketball together, is alive as we begin yet another basketball season here at the JCC.

On November 1, we hosted our annual “Basketbash” to kick off the hoops season.  Each team was introduced as they entered the gym to the same clap that has echoed in the gym for three decades.  The clap has not changed with the exception of the argument that its pace has picked up a bit, and a “yup” is occasionally verbalized in between each beat.  Regardless, anyone who has been a part of the culture will get goose bumps when the “clap” overtakes the gym.

I started participating in the JCC basketball program in 1996 as a Little Champ Super Hooper.  As I grew older (and not much taller) I played in the Harry B. Davis program and on the travel team that played, and still plays, in the Metro League.

My first experience as a role model and coach was in 2006 as a Little Champ Coach and then the following year as the coach of the UConn Huskies 3rd and 4th grade Harry B. Davis team.  We went undefeated, and won the championship.

Ten years later, I look back at that season and have come to realize that there is much more to learn from defeat.  Nobody goes undefeated in life.  We are lucky that in sports, there is a winner and a loser, and at the youth level, it is important to lose.  Losing is the best test of maturity.  What better place and time to learn how to lose than in our program.  After 10 years of coaching, I soon learned that being undefeated in the 2006 season was not a sign for the future, as I have endured many losses. It is our job as coaches and leaders in the community to teach our players to win and lose with “class”…… it is part of growing up.

Twenty years after my first Sunday playing at the JCC as a kindergartner, I head into another season of basketball at the JCC with an unparalleled enthusiasm for the program, the coaches and the players.  The program is still the same program it was 20 years ago: Energetic high school students as coaches, an emphasis on teaching basketball fundamentals the right way, and Saturdays and Sundays full of mentoring, competition and fun!  These same basic concepts and principles have been timeless within our program.

With 28 new kindergartners and counting entering the program this year, they too begin the JCC basketball journey that encompasses way more than a team shirt and a basketball.  The hope is that this will be their first of many terrific experiences that they will reminisce over, the same way my friends and I still talk about our playing days.

We are hopeful that that their lives will be positively influenced by healthy competition, terrific role modeling from their coaches, and a clear understanding of what it means to be a friend and a teammate.  And maybe, just maybe they will end up on our Instagram (@JCCBasketball).


Mark Pattis is the JCC’s Sports & Recreation Program Director

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