Big Bonding

Bucks host basketball clinic for Big Brothers Big Sisters

By Brett Winkler

Bucks assistant coach Bill Peterson runs some Bigs and Littles through some drills.

In basketball, as in life, teamwork is crucial to success. Without the help and support of others, it's difficult to accomplish any substantial goals. Bucks forward Luc Richard Mbah a Moute and assistant coach Bill Peterson see it every day in the NBA. They saw it again on Wednesday night as they conducted a basketball clinic at the Bucks Training Center for matches from Big Brothers Big Sisters of Metro Milwaukee.

More than 75 pairs of Bigs and Littles showed up at the Bucks Training Center for the clinic, where Mbah a Moute, Peterson and Bucks staff members helped to teach them fundamental skills such as ball-handling, defending, passing and shooting. But as Vice President of Marketing for Big Brothers Big Sisters of Metro Milwaukee Jan Nowak indicated, the event was much less about basketball than it was about giving the matches an opportunity to interact in a safe environment.

"This is where a lot of our matches really begin the talking," Nowak said of activities like the Bucks clinic. "When you put two strangers together, which is what it is at the very beginning of the match, there's not a lot to talk about."

Mbah a Moute works with some of the Littles.

Mbah a Moute and Peterson made sure that there was plenty to talk about during the hour-long clinic, implementing drills and competitions designed to encourage communication and teamwork among the Bigs and Littles, some of whom have been matched together for only a few months.

"When you do the basketball stuff and there's teamwork involved, they have to work with each other," Coach Peterson said. "They encourage each other and say, `It's okay you made a mistake, we'll get it next time.'

"Sometimes it doesn't go well for the Little, but then they see the Big struggle just as much as they do. There's a little bond that comes from that."

The teamwork displayed on the court Wednesday night was not unlike the teamwork involved in the relationship between the Bucks and Big Brothers Big Sisters. While this was the first year that the Bucks have held a basketball clinic for new matches, the Bucks and their players have been supplying tickets to Big Brothers Big Sisters for over 10 years, offering further opportunities for Bigs and Littles to relate to one another through a common interest.

"We get hundreds of tickets a year and I can tell you that they're put to very good use, Nowak said. "For a lot of our Bigs, it really helps them and supports them in the match, to be able to have the opportunity to take their Little to a Bucks game through the generosity of the Bucks. That is so valued and treasured by our organization."

Big Brothers Big Sisters of Metro Milwaukee connects kids (Littles) in Milwaukee and Waukesha counties with adults (Bigs) who are willing to volunteer at least one hour of their time every week for at least one year to enrich the life of a child. Last year, the organization supported over 2,000 such mentoring relationships. According to Kerry Bloomquist, a Match Support Specialist with the local chapter, those relationships oftentimes don't end with the initial commitment.

"We look at the Bucks as part of our team"

"We ask for a year commitment going in, but some of these matches have been together for three, four, five years or more," Bloomquist said. "It's incredible how committed these Bigs are to these kids."

The hard work and dedication of the Bigs did not go unnoticed at the clinic. Though many of the participants are accustomed to watching and cheering for the Bucks, on Wednesday the role of appreciative fan belonged to Bucks forward Mbah a Moute.

"Some of those kids don't have role models," Mbah a Moute said. "So when they have those Big Brothers and Big Sisters coming in and looking after them, it's very special. I really applaud them for that."

Whether it's the teamwork demonstrated by a Big and a Little as they learn life lessons together or the teamwork between the two organizations helping to strengthen that bond, it's safe to say that the crucial, yet simple, act of working together has been a success for all parties involved.

"We look at the Bucks as part of our team," Nowak said. "We could not do what we do--these Bigs could not do the kinds of things that they're doing--without the support of organizations like the Milwaukee Bucks."