Saturday, August 30, 2008

And so it begins...

The bags are unpacked, the laundry is done and everyone seems to be getting back to their lives in D.C. and we are already busy planning for Hoops Sagrado 2009.

We've decided to limit the number of participants to 20 in 2009 and that includes us "old heads." So far we've got four slots filled up which leaves 16 more decisions to make.

Let us know...

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Adios Guatemala

It's about 3 a.m. (Guatemala time) on our last day in Guatemala and while most of the group is sleeping, some of us have decided to push on through until the 4 a.m. departure time for the airport.

While we know that everyone will be glad to get home to see family and friends and to take a good, strong, hot shower, it really is with heavy heart that we leave Guatemala this morning.

For 33 days we've lived together, laughed together, learned together, and some times fought/disagreed with each other. We've met many new people and have created life-long friendships and bonds that stretch across language, race and borders.

For some of us, Guatemala has touched our hearts and souls like no other place or experience and it's our genuine hope that the Hoops Sagrado students are as forever changed by this experience as those of us "old heads" have been through 10 years of the program.

Adios y gracias Guatemala.
Hoops Sagrado

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Adios Xela

Yesterday, August 18, was a sad day for many of us as it was our last day in Xela. But before we boarded bus and headed out of Xela for the last time, we had a fiesta with all the teachers and directors from the four schools where we run the basketball clinics.

Since this is Hoops Sagrado, the fiesta included a few basketball games between the teachers and directors of each school with the Hoops folks who worked at each school pitching in. Although there was clearly some questionable play calling and refereing by other Hoops students.

After the basketball each school did a presentation for the students which including traditional dancing and singing. The directors of each school expressed their heartfelt thanks to all the Hoops students for the hard work that they do. Each student was presented with a small token from their schools which ranged from pieces of tipica with their names embroidered on them to hand-made purses and scarves.

For the first time, the superintendent of the school system in Cantel was at the fiesta and made a brief speech. His speech, which was quite emotional for many of us and basically included words along the lines of ..."Guatemala has no courses, Guatemala has no schools, Guatemala has poverty, but the students of Guatemala have angels and many of those angels are the students of Hoops Sagrado."

When the speeches and gift-giving had concluded everyone enjoyed a totally awesome lunch provided by the teachers of Chuisuc, then headed back to their homes to pack up and say their final good-byes to their families.

In what was probably a fitting moment, the bus pulled out of Xela for the last time on a totally beautiful and sunny afternoon.

We arrived in the lakeside village of Panajachel around 8 p.m. and within 5 minutes of getting situated in their rooms, most of the students were in the streets of Pana spending what little money they have left....if you're a loved one of a student on the trip, let's hope they spent some of that money on gifts for you!

Monday, August 18, 2008

The Week In Review

Last week was a busy one and while we have tons of stuff to tell you about, the time is pretty short so we'll give a quick review here and then fill in with blog posts as we can (probably even after we get home).

Saturday Aug. 9 was the annual lunch with all the Hoops Sagrado scholarship students. This year's lunch was held in Pachaj and as always it was a fun and special day. That evening we played Xela in the local gym and won on a thrilling and controversial last-second foul shot.

Sunday Aug. 10 was the day of the Cantel Tournament. Always a day jam-packed with basketball the Hoops Knights once again fell to Xela in the final game of the day.

Monday Aug. 11--we visited a family of artisans in Momostenango who weave blankets, rugs and create many other handicrafts. The students always get to try their hand at spinning the wool and making tortillas. Monday was also the last day for the basketball clinics and the final chance to practice before the big tournament.

Tuesday Aug. 12--we headed back to San Felipe for three more games against a local school. After the games we boarded the bus and headed to Champerico for the day...Champerico is a Pacifical coastal town like Ocean City, Md. only worse....but it's still a good time.

Wednesday Aug. 13 and Thursday Aug. 14 were the annual kids basketball tournament and the culmination of all of our work here in Guatemala. It was a jam-packed two days with probably the biggest news coming out of the tournament being that the Red Beast--the 4-time defending champion girls team from Chirijquiac--fell in the first round of the tournament! They stormed back the next day though to end up in third place. And in a reversal of last year, both the girls and boys teams from Pachaj won the championship. After the tournament on Thursday, everyone grabbed pick up trucks and headed to the gymnasium in Xela where we played three games against a local high school with Hoops ending the day 3-0.

Friday Aug. 15 we all headed to Fuentes Georginas for a day of relaxation in the hot springs. The water this year at the hot springs is really warm, bordering on hot. Folks say the more rain that we get here in this part of the world, the warmer the springs are. After leaving the hot springs we boarded a bus for Totonicopan for three Friday night games. Once again, the Knights ended the evening 3-0 (just barely for the ladies who won by one point).

Saturday Aug. 16 and Sunday Aug. 17 we visited ruins outside of the town of Huehuetenango and then headed to a town near the Mexican border called Jacaltenango for Sunday morning games. As these may or may not be our last games here in Guatemala (we don't know what the plan is for Panajachel) everyone really put in their best effort to end the day 3-0 with the "Old Head" breaking the 100 barrier on a last-second shot by Stan.

That's it for now. We'll try to be in touch again soon. We leave Xela today for two days in Panajachel and then will be home on Wednesday. It's amazing how quickly 33 days goes by.

Friday, August 8, 2008


(This is the final posting from our four basketball camps. The camp at Pachaj includes Jordyn, Jerrod, Connor, Imani and Bookie.)

Everyday at Pachaj we are greeted with a smile and hugs. When we finally reach the court the fun begins. Everyday we start off with layups and lots of running. The smiles on the kids faces definitely make the death defying walk up the hill worth it.

Sometimes they give us fruit and water. It really shows how much appreciation they have for us coming to there camp. In are camps there are a lot of girls that wear tipica during practice. To see girls playing basketball in heels and a skirt that symbolizes who they are.They play in clothes they are really suppose to play in. And also the fact that some of them have to work in farm fields or at home.

Teaching these kids basketball is a great experience and we wish that we can work with them everyday but we have to leave eventually. We had to cut the kids that made us sad but the kids were ok with it they still had smiles on there faces which brightened are day.

One thing that made me look at things differently is when one of the girls didn't have tennis shoes because they were to expensive. It made me a take a step back and appreciate my life more then I do now because not everyone is as fortunate. I hope we get to work with the kids next year because they were extremely grateful for us being at there school and we appreciated them being there too.

Thursday, August 7, 2008


(This is a third in a series of posts by our students. This is by Jasmine, a first-time Hoops participant. Jasmine is at Chirijquiac with Stan, Brandon, Ronald and Akasha).

When I arrived at the airport with the Hoops Sagrado program, I was expecting a unique experience. This opportunity to explore Guatemala would mean speaking and going to school to learn Spanish.

I heard about the many different types of camps that the participants of the program would be going to. However I had know idea which one I would be going to. I couldn't wait to find out. It turns out I was selected to go to a camp named Chrijquiuac.

I was told my camp was the furthest away out of all the camps and that to reach I would have to leave early from class. I was confused and nervous about what will happen at camp. MAN! People were not playing when they said that it was far away. The ride took forever!

Anyway my group which included Stan, Brandon, Ronald, and Akasha finally arrived to the village. Immediately after stepping off of the bus, the children running up to us and pulling me away with them as they walked to camp.

Now I understood what people meant when they said I would be the "new" Brittney. I only knew a little bit of Spanish, but understood that the girls were calling me Brittney. I said no and the girls got sad and asked me what my name was. I told them my name was Jasmine, they started to laugh and whisper among themselves.

I felt kind of out-of-place because I spoke no Spanish, had no idea what to do, and had neither Ronald or Akasha to help me translate. So initially I just sat down and watched everybody play.

Some of the girls walked up to me and asked me my name. I replied and they giggled. One girl asked where was Brittney and I said "No Se" and "Estados Unidos". The girl got sad and she asked was I her sister. I said no and she just looked at me. She then saw my hair and said in Spanish "Como su pelo." I just heard the pelo part and said "si". She then started to touching it. Then more girls soon followed. Brandon soon called out ¨Chicas¨ and the girls ran away from me.

Ever since that day, I loved my camp, and all the kids that we had. Even though I never got to know all their names, they knew mine (felt very bad), and we all started friendships. I just hope that I can come back to Hoops Sagrado. I enjoy Chiriquiac and I hope they do well in the tournament. Words cannot describe how

I got so attached to these girls. I really enjoy the innocence and playfulness of the children. I just wish that I can take them all home with me, even though I don't know them that well. I really happy that I am participating in the program, and looking forward to working with the children again in the future.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Chuisuc Champions

(This is the second in a series of postings by the Hoops students about their experiences at the basketball camps.)

The coaches of Chuisuc are Alex, Aniekan, Johari , Brittany , and Melody. With only three of us(Alex, Aniekan, and Johari) being the returning coaches of the Chuisuc champion chicos, we hope that the chicas can step their game up this year with Melody and Brittany .

The first week of camp was so-so because of the rain. So instead of playing basketball, we played hot potato with the pelota under the pavilion of the school. The kids were not very good listeners until we made them not listening synonomous with “diez”(push-ups) and “veinte y cinco”(jumping-jacks). So now we rarely have to repeat those phrases.

The second week with Alex being the late comer, he floated between the chicas and the chicos. Aneikan and Johari taught the chicos triangle offense, 2-3 zone defense, and pass and cut. The chicos were getting the hang of 2-3 zone and the triangle offense.

Meanwhile the chicas were being taught “zone-high” offense and 2-3 zone defense. Brittany and Melody were trying to take things slow due to lack of discipline. Entonces, they constantly had the chicas doing defense/offense drills. At the end of each day, the chicos played against the chicas implementing the drills they learned earlier.

Este semana, so far so good. We are still observing our players therefore, we have not made our final cuts. Now the chicos and the chicas are playing as a team ¡because we threaten them with whose going to be cut (solamente chiste)!

In conclusion…we expect the best out of our Chuisuc champions (chicos) and soon to be champions (chicas). Our players remind us of the saying “work hard…play harder”. That’ll be all for now…until next time, Disfruta!

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Second Helpings

On Sunday (8/3) before heading to San Felipe for late-afternoon games, Hoops Sagrado made a day-long pit stop at Xocomil, a water park on the coast.

Now I know what you’re thinking…. “A water park? In Guatemala?” But seriously, this place is Disney World clean and not some place you would expect to find in a country that’s average household income is less than $1500 per year. Ahh, coffee plantations.

A water park with a theme of an ancient Mayan city is just wrong, yet so much fun. Sort of like pineapple on pizza.

Although some of us would have been content to spend the day on the lazy river (okay the two of us in the over-35 bracket) most everyone gave one of the many death-defying water slides a whirl. Fortunately, since we had three games to play that evening, everyone survived—albeit with a new found appreciation for just how much fun things can be with a different concept of safety—I mean really, what could possibly be unsafe about essentially climbing a 5-story building and shooting down a fiberglass tube into a 4-ft. pool of water with nothing but a thin piece of Styrofoam and your moxy?

After a day filled with sun and fun and admittedly a much needed break for everyone, we boarded the bus for San Felipe just as the heavens opened up and unleashed upon us a rainstorm that would have been worthy of a day off from work in D.C. It rained so hard that when we entered the gym in San Felipe we couldn’t hear each other (or our iPods) over the sound of the rain pounding on the tin roof.

Once they got the rain water off the court (covered mind you, but with no glass in the windows, things got a bit damp) and the lights turned on, Las Chicas were the first to take the floor. Although the ladies led for much of the game, once again toward the end of the game they were schooled by a 38-year-old with an awesome outside shot. In spite of the 45 to 33 loss, it really was a complete team effort and minus some questionable calls and the gutsy play of the ladies on the other team, it could have easily been a victory: Jordyn 10p/3a/4r; Tyler 13p/1a/1r; Breezy 3p/4a/3r; Brittany 2p/3r; Bookie 1r; Melody 1r; and Akasha 2p/3r.

The Young Guns faired a bit better with the final score although it was a close one. As is the case with just about every place we play, the calls were questionable and the Young Guns’ coach came this close to being shown the door…before he actually got the tech. Once again, everyone participated in the 39 to 34 victory and the stat line shows the complete picture: Brandon 9p/1a/4r; Johari 8p/4a/4r; Alex 7p/17r; Ronald 2p/7r; Connor 10p/1/7r; Lexus 3r.

Tensions were high before the tip-off for the Old Heads game but it quickly became obvious that this wouldn’t be quite the throw-down that some were expecting. The Old Heads jumped off to a quick lead that never dipped by more less than 16 points. When it became obvious how things were going to go, the mood loosened up and everyone on both teams seemed to have a good time in the 84 to 56 victory for the Knights. Bryan 17p/12a/2r; Aniekan 18p/2a/5r; Stan 10p/1a/2r; Jerrod 22p/5a/3r; Alex 11p/1a/4r; Johari 2a/1r; Connor 7p/3a/3r; Ronald 2p/1r; Stat Girl 1a.

Overall we ended the weekend 5-1 and are now looking forward to renewing our rivalry with Xela on Saturday night and Sunday in the Cantel Tournament.

Rain, Rain Go Away

(Beginning today, we'll be posting a write-up from each camp. Today's post is from Xejuyup, which includes Tyler, Kara, Nadia, Lexus and Breezy.)

With two weeks into camp the kids at Xelujup have been at a bit of a disadvantage due to the numerous rain cancelations. The Hoops Sagrado crew of Lexus, Shaq, Kara, Tyler, and Breezy started camp on Monday the 20th, where there roughly twenty-five girls and twenty boys.

Lexus and Shaq had the boys while Kara, Tyler and Breezy coached the girls. We found that the language barrier was a bit difficult at first, but we quickly learned the necessary phrases to get by....for example Alto, Defensa, Atencion, Darecha, Izquierda, and Cenasta.

We taught the girls the beloved phrase on the trip "I'm broke Baby¨ and the boys responded quickly with the cheer "ballin'".

The week flew by and everyone was saddened by the departure of Shaq, especially the 20 young boys from Xelujup.

Week two was a hard week for us, as we were one man short with Shaq's absence. Tyler was recruited to coach the boys team with Lexus, and the girls' team was sad to see Tyler go to the other side!

Selection day was on Wednesday and the four of us dreaded telling the kids who would not make the team. Surprisingly the selections went well with a little assistance of candy, and everyone went home happy.

Now that the two teams had been selected we were ready to start our practices. Unfortunately due to rain on Thursday and Friday, camp was called off. Yesterday our team was fortunate to get our late addition, Nadia, who arrived late Friday night into Xela. Although she doesn't play basketball her presence is felt in many ways and we love having her!

The two teams are showing much improvement and we look forward to preparing for the tournament next week!

Team Xelujup, Lexus, Tyler, Kara, Nadia, and Breezy
Shaq we miss you!

Monday, August 4, 2008

San Cristobal

Like the San Cristobal tournament itself (every year), this blog post about last weekend's games is a "bit" behind schedule.

We played the make-up San Cristobal tournament on Saturday, July 26 and in a format and pacing that bewildered even easy-going Bryan, Hoops Sagrado ended the day 2-5, but regained the San Cristobal title after losing it in 2007 to Mother Nature and Mazate.

The Old Heads defeated the San Cris youth team 75-37 (Bryan 8p/5a/5r; Aniekan 17p/1r; Stan 18p/2a/8r; Jerrod 16p/1a/1r; Brandon 5p/7a/2r; Johari 7p/2a/2r; Connor 2p; Ronald 1r; Lexus 2p). The Young Guns then fell 62 to 40 to the San Cristobal men's team (Brandon 17p/1a/4r; Johari 10p/1a/5r; Ronald 2p/5r; Connor 11p/1r; Lexus 1r; Tyler 1r) setting up a match between both teams of "old heads".

Despite repeated warnings from those in the know, the Hoops women's team was completely schooled by #6 for the San Cristobal team. Note to the ladies from D.C. (and Maryland)... just because someone is old enough to be your mother doesn't mean they can't teach you a thing or 10 on and off the court. The final score--in favor of San Cris--was 34-26. Jordyn 11p/2a/4r; Tyler 5p/4r; Brittany 5p/5r; Breezy 2p/1a/7r; Bookie 2p/6r.

Playing the San Cris youth team in the 3rd place game was a combination of all three Hoops teams after some of the Young Guns decided not to play. Perhaps it was the combination of experience or personalities on the court, but Connoer had the game of his life with 20p/1a/7r. And despite the 59-45 loss, everyone who made the effort to play in the 3rd place game got on the board: Bryan 1a/1r; Lexus 2r; Ronadl 2p/5r; Jordyn 4p/2a/1r; Tyler 10p/3a/1r and Johari 9p/4a/2r.

After a sumptious lunch of hot dogs with coleslaw (only in Guatemala) and orange soda, it was time for the main event. Although there is a lot of good natured kidding on and off the court between Hoops Sagrado and San Cristobal, things still get fairly intense at game time. And that intensity (or maybe it was the hot dogs) fueled the Old Heads to a 69 to 48 victory. Once again, every single player on the court and bench put in a solid effort: Bryan 6p/12a/5r; Aniekan 12p/3a/10r; Stan 6p/1a/5r; Jerrod 20p/2a/4r; Brandon 14p/2a/1r; Johari 4p/2a/1r; Connor 3p/2r.

And of course, as is tradition, after all the games, the group made its way to the midway of the San Cristobal fair where everyone enjoyed all the rides and the newbies had their first experience with corn on a stick...

Everybody Eats

Our third Saturday in Guatemala found us once again descending from the highlands to the coastal town of Reu.

This time we were scheduled to play the women's and men's under-21 teams from Reu as well as their selection team--all in the local gym in front of a very pro-local audience. At the end of the night Hoops Sagrado was 3-0.

After jumping out to a 33-5 first quarter lead, the Young Guns held off a Reu rally to prevail 58 to 48 (although the scoreboard said 58 to 50). Everyone had a hand in the win, especially Alex (20p/3a/12r) who arrived in Guatemala on July 27. Also lighting up the stat board were Brandon (18p/4a/9r); Johari (13p/6a/5r); Ronald (2p/8r); Connor (3p/1a/3r); and Lexus (2p/6r).

Las Chicas had everyone on their feet cheering in the final moments of their 45-42 overtime victory. Both teams put in a tremendous effort that we all agree was one of the most exciting games we've seen in Guatemala--ever. With the score tied at 38 at the end of regulation (once again there was some questionable score-keeping), the ladies turned on the after-burners in over to come up with the victory.

As in the boys game, just about everyone had a hand in the victory: Jordyn (20p/1a/5r); Tyler (15p/4a/4r); Breezy (9r); Brittany (9p/10r); Bookie (2p/11r); and Melody (1r).

Since the selection team from Reu is made up of a number of players from Molar, there were a log of familiar faces (and dirty tricks) on the court agains the Knights. Even though the game was never really close, there were enough questionable calls and rough play that Jerrod fouled out (before the 4th quarter) and Bryan got a tech (no court would have convicted him). Despite that (or perhaps in spite of it) the Knights prevailed 55 to 47.

Again, as was the case with the Young Guns and Las Chicas, everyone had hand in the Old Head victory: Bryan (9p/6a/1r); Aniekan (10p/4a/7r); Stan (10p/4a/3r); Jefford (8p/2r); Alex (6p/1a/11r); Brandon (9p/1a/2r); and Johari (3p/1r).

Everybody eats!