Thursday, July 30, 2015


This is the third of five blog posts about the camps where DC students work each afternoon. Team Xejuyup counselors are Kay Kay,Carlos, Kevin, and Xander.

Running a basketball camp for 30 Mayan children in the rural outskirts of Guatemala is a challenging experience. It is also very rewarding. 
The camp lasts from 3-5 everyday Monday through Friday. In order to get to and from camp we take a combination of Guatemalan public transportation. A micro bus, public bus, and then a pickup.

The first day of camp, none of us knew what to expect. We all kept looking to Carlos for guidance as he was the grizzled Hoops Sagrado veteran. The previous year he ran the Xejuyup camp.

“Expect anything and everything” Carlos kept repeating to us as we all sat in the back of a pickup truck and prodded him with questions about the camp.

We were all puzzled by his vague advice that he kept insisting.

“What does that even mean?” One of us inquired. “It means expect the unexpected” he said, refusing to elaborate.

We all rolled our eyes at this, when the bus began to slow down. We arrived at the camp. We all hopped out and stood in front of the school gate. With one knock on the door a teacher opened it wearing a warm smile.

 Just as we were about to return the smile and say hello a deafeningly loud symphony of music
blared out at us. It was a combination of horns, drums, trumpets, and more. We were all caught off guard. Even Carlos´ eyes widened as we walked down the school path with rows of children aged 8 to 12 basting their band instruments in perfect harmony.

When we finally reached the center of the outside section of the school the kids began to form a circle around us while playing their instruments. The music slowed down, sped up, and then came to a dramatic close.

“That is our way of saying welcome and we hope you feel at home,” the teacher said in Spanish when the performance stopped.

“Gracias” We mumbled while still in awe of the heartfelt welcoming we received.

One by one the children set down their instruments and shyly introduced themselves. We then all walked over to the nearby basketball court.

Trees hung over the well-used court that appeared to be the children's second home. There were no nets on the rims, no three point or free throw lines, and the hoops undersized.. This was all of no importance to the kids. All of them short in stature but full of life. The kids all play with heart and a fiery intensity. They dive for loose balls and will the ball through the hoop.

 Hard fouls and rough falls don't deter them. Regardless of the collision or the fall they always brush it off and keep playing just as hard. As I watch them play a shrill blow of a whistle catches everyone's attention.

“CINCO VUELTAS” Carlos shouts after blowing his whistle.

It is a hot day and the court is full of dust but the kids stop what they are doing and instantly oblige. After they sprint five laps around the court and return to the starting point another abrupt whistle sounds.

“CINCO MAS” Carlos screams.

Camp is in session.

I later learn the first week is “Hell week” and of the 30 that are in the camp only 20 make it
through this week. The remaining 20 that made it through the intense drills and conditioning get to participate in the following weeks of camp and compete in the tournament at the end. The second week we have been working on passing, layups, and defense. Next week we plan to focus more on specific game plans.

The kids’ favorite part of camp is anything involving competition. We try to incorporate lots of contests and games into camp sessions. Organizing these was hard at first because of the language barrier. However, as time went on we have all formed bonds with the kids and communicating became easier.

Everyday the kids come to camp with big smiles and lots of energy. They all look up to us and try to emulate us any way they can. Often they ask how to say their names in English, and repeat phrases we say. What they don't know is that they inspire us as much as we inspire them. A lot can be learned from their outlook on life, the way they look out for each other, and how they approach camp.

We look forward to continue to learn from them all the way up to the tournament that they will certainly be prepared for.

Nevertheless we tell them to “Expect anything and everything.” 

(A special thank you to Xander for writing this blog post! He did a great job and if he wants to come back this year, this blogger may be out of a job.) 

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Colegio Maya

Colegio Maya is the newest addition to the Hoops Sagrado fleet of camps.

Situated comfortably between Chirijquiac and Pachaj, the school has an abundance of mountainous skylines, rich culture and, of course, kids nipping at the bit to emerge victorious in their freshman appearance at the tournament. 

As we learned previously, Chirijquiac means behind the mountain or after the flea. Colegio Maya is in Choquiac, which means the front of the mountain or in front of the flea in K'iche!

There is a girl’s and a boy’s team, each with 10 players. Malaika and Demani run the girls squad. Zion, Christian, and William lead the boys.

Upon arrival, there was a tremendous turnout of students wanting to play on the teams; over 20 boys and nearly 20 girls showed up.

All five “Hoops Sagradians” will agree that cutting the teams down to 10 was the most difficult task as coaches of these young, soon-to-be star athletes.

However, in proper Colegio Maya form, those who did not make the cut took it in stride and still come to the practices to say “buenas tardes” and “hasta luego” from time to time.

Arguably the most special moment thus far was the 37th anniversary of Colegio Maya. The
celebrations began with a walk through the village, parade-style.

The parade took a pitstop at the home of one of the students, where the celebrations continued with food, drinks (a tasty corn and coconut concoction), and a traditional dance performance from six local students.

It was there that they officially welcomed Hoops Sagrado to their school, over an amplified microphone, in the presence of the entire community. The energy was palpable.

This may be the first year we've had a presence at the school, but Malaika, Demani, Zion, Christian, and William will make sure the Hoops Sagrado name rings loudly amongst all of the camps for years to come.

(A special thank you to William Jordan, an adult volunteer on our trip for writing this piece, especially since he was sick!)

Tuesday, July 28, 2015


This is the first of five blog posts about the camps where the D.C. students work each afternoon. 

An Aniekan Udofia original from 2008 on the Chirijquiac wall
Team Chirijquiac is Deon, Mackenzie, Max, Ronnie and Jesse along with a one week special guest appearance by Stan.

Chirijquiac, which means after the mountain in Quiche is the most rural of our five camps. The trip to camp takes about an hour or so each way. The bus wends and winds by other schools and through
cornfields before the group reaches their destination at about 2:15. Camp runs from 2:30 to 4:30 every day.

The schedule here is a bit different than other camps because the students need to make sure they catch the bus home at a certain time or it's a long wait for the next one.

When the students disembark from the bus they are greeted with lots of smiles and ready hugs. There is some horsing around and clapping games before camp officially begins, but at 2:30 it's time to get
to work.

Diggs and Mackenzie work with the girls. Chirijquiac is a well-oiled machine and the girls have won the championship at least five times. It helps that their director Lucy is a baller herself.

This is Mackenzie's first trip to Guatemala with Hoops Sagrado and it's been an eye-opening experience. According to Mackenzie, so much of it has been surprising.

"I knew I would like the kids, but I didn't know I would like them this much," Mackenzie said. "They are just so giving. They have so little, but they are always giving me drinks and treats."

Mackenzie said that the thing she loves most about the camps are the girls because they give 100 percent. She said they keep going no matter what.

The thing she likes least? Diggs. Joking of course, but she does have a very serious answer to the question.

"I hate that we have to cut two girls [each camp can only keep 10 boys and 10 girls on their teams for the tournament]. I also hate the sanitation that they have here, that they [the Guatemalan children] have to deal with every day. I don't like because it makes me sad."

Over on the boys side of the court they are hard at work as well. The boys are hard at work under the guidance of Ronnie, Max, Jesse and for this week Stan. While there is some initial silliness, the boys side quickly gets down to work.

While the boys side may not function with the seriousness of the girls' side, it is clear that everyone, campers and students alike are having a great time. Ronnie, who is a returning student on the trip has such a joie de vivre and that's clear in his work with the children.
Stan and the boys

"I wanted to come back this year because I had a good experience last year and I had fun," Ronnie
said. "I love the kids. They are fun and they really love playing basketball."

There's a water break at 3:30 and then it's back to work again with drills and maybe if the children are lucky a game between the two sides.

The tournament is less than 10 days away and cuts are coming soon. No one is looking forward to that, but it's all part of the learning process for everyone.

Camp ends promptly at 4:30 and while the D.C. students file out to wait for the bus, the children from the camp hang around with the students and make jokes and wait to wave good-bye. 
 So here's the thing about Hoops Sagrado, we hope that is makes an impact on the students from D.C., but we know that it makes an impact on the children here in Guatemala. A perfect example of this was on Monday when riding the bus to Chirijquiac, a young woman named Rosa asked me if I was with Hoops Sagrado and when I said yes, she proceeded to ask me about Ronald and Akasha and Brandon--all who had been on the Hoops Sagrado trip in 2008. Today Rosa is in her last year of high school and plans to study administration at the university next year.

Seven years from now, I hope to be on a bus riding through the cornfields of rural Guatemala and have someone ask me about Diggs or Mackenzie or Ronnie or Jesse or Max.

Monday, July 27, 2015

It can't rain all the time

Whew! What a weekend!

Dance, dance, dance revolution
Never too old for a pinata
Things kicked off on Friday with another party at the team house. There were grilled meats, tortillas, deviled eggs (huevos de Diablo) and dancing and a pinata. It was a super fun night and a great way to begin the weekend.

On Saturday afternoon we made our annual trip to San Cristobal for their tournament that coincides with the fair. Our good friend Hans coordinates the tournament and we have been playing and working with him for 16 years. For many of those 16 years it would always rain during the San Cris tournament, but about four years ago they put a roof over the basketball court and I kid you not, it has not rained once during the tournament since then!

We played five games that day and won three of the five. First up were the Hoops Young Guns vs. the San Cris (Xela) Mixto team. San Cris/Xela won 58 to 43 (Carlos 2P/3R; Alec 10P/13R; Djeder 7P/1R; Zion 1R; Manny 2P; Ronnie 8P/1A/8R; Christian 2P/2R; Demani 10P/3A/2R; and Xander 1A/1R).

Next up was the Hoops Mixto team and the game against the San Cris Young Guns was surprisingly close, but fortunately Hoops pulled out the win 48 to 47 (Bryan 5P/1A/3A; Diggs 1A/7R; Malik 8P/2A/12R; Renard 5P/3A/7R; Kevin 22P/1A/2R; Demani 8P/3A/1R).

The Hoops Sagrado Chicas were next on the dockets and this was Bryan's time to shine with the referees. He was in rare form over some the exceedingly egregious calls, but fortunately he didn't get a tech for the team. It was a great game and the Chicas won 42 to 30 (KayKay 8P/5A/3R; Tee 26P/1A/10R; Tevanah 4P/8R; Mackenzie 2P/4R; and Malaika 2P/6R).

While there originally was not going to be a third place game, the San Cris team wanted one and of course our young guys were game. Unfortunately the fell to the San Cris team 51 to 36 (Manny 2P/4R; Ronnie 7P/1A/13R; Alec 6P/4R; Los 3P/2A/2R; Djeder 4P/3R; Christian 2P/3R; Zion 1A; and Xander 2P/1R).

Last but not least was the championship game between the Hoops Mixto team and the San Cris/Xela Mixto team. It was touch and go, but then Arriola got kicked out of the game for the other team for making donkey ears at the ref and then the Hoops team took advantage of San Cris losing their tallest (and probably best, sorry Hans) player winning 63 to 55 (Bryan 8P/3A/5R; Diggs 8P/2A/5R; 10P/1A/9R; Renard 2P/2A/2R; Demani 19P/4A/2R; Kevin 12P/4A/4R; and Alec 6P/3R).

As an aside, there was a stage set for a rock show right near the basketball court and seriously, the longest sound check in the history of sound checks took place while the final TWO games were happening. Uno, dos, dos, tres, tres, si, si, uno, uno, dos, dos, tres, tres,si, si. 
Volcan Tajumulco
On Sunday we loaded up the bus at 8 a.m. and headed down from the mountains to the coastal town of El Tumbador. Before getting to El Tumbador for games, we spent a good portion of the day  at a local water park playing in the pool. From out of nowhere people were getting RKO'd left and right...which is apparently some sort of wrestling reference.

Jesse checks out the slide

Tevanah and KayKay enjoying some RnR

After the pool we were greeted by our friends Jose and Guillermo who organized the evenings games. To say that it was raining when we left the water park would be putting it mildly. It was amazing. We slowly made our way to El Tumbador where the faces on the students who saw the outdoor court were really sort of priceless. 

We waited out the rain for about an hour and then finally were able to pull off all three games. 

The ladies were on the docket first and due to some concerns about the conditions Hoops was down a player. Fortunately one of the El Tumbador players graciously agreed to play with the Hoops team. It was an interesting game to say the least with the Hoops ladies being cautioned about throwing elbows and the El Tumbador players jacking threes from mid-court.  In the end it was Hoops Sagrado Chicas 50 and El Tumbador 34 (KayKay 14P/3A/5R; Tevanah 18P/1A/7R; Malaika 4P/1A/5R; Mackenzie 8P/1A/4R; Zulma 6P/1A/8R).

Next up were the Hoops Sagrado Young Guns and this trip we have enough of them that everyone got to play two full quarters. It was an everybody eats sort of game with all 10 players getting in the stats book for the 51 to 32 (Alec 8P/9R; Los 4P/3A/4R; Manny 2P/2A/5R; Ronnie 11P/4R; Christian 2R*; Djeder 7P/1R; Zion 5P; Xander 6P/1A/2R; Max 4P; Jesse 4P). *Christian technically scored one bucket, but it was disallowed because he dunked it and got a tech for it. To his credit, and the rest of the team, he tried to score again, but those pesky traveling calls prevented at least five more buckets. He was definitely MOTM with at least five huge blocks and was a crowd favorite.

The final game was the Hoops Sagrado Mixto team vs. the adult men's team from El Tumbador. Not to be snarky, but it wasn't even close! The final score was Hoops Sagrado 63 vs. El Tumbador 20.
Hats off to Bryan for rocking the sunglasses during the game since he lost a contact at the pool (Bryan 7P/2A/6R; Diggs 2P/3R; Malik 6P/5R; Kevin 22P/2A/2R; 12P/1A/5R; Deman 15P/4A/1R)

After the game, we loaded up back on the bus for sandwiches and a cold ride back to Xela, arriving just before 1am. I am happy to report that no one was more than 10 minutes late for class this morning! 
Coming up next are blog posts from/about each of the five camps. 

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Scenes from Xela

It's been a quiet few days of studying and camps, so we just wanted to share a few photos with you so you'll have an idea what life is like here in Xela.

Two more of our group arrived yesterday and we're super happy to have Jesse and Malik here. Stan arrives on Sunday for a week and Josh and Alex arrive on Monday and will be with us through the end of the trip. It's great to have old friends back with us even if it's just for a short period of time.

Most of the students went out salsa dancing last night (with adult supervision of course) and everyone seemed to have a great time. There was lots of giggling in school today. Tonight we will celebrate the birthday of Renard who turns 17 today! 

We'll be jam-packed with posts for the next two weeks including a post from each of the camps so please stay tuned.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Proof of study

We're now four days into classes and we felt it was time we provided the parents (and the teachers following along too) with some "proof of study" photos to just to show that the students are actually studying.

We don't quite have photos of everyone studying, but trust us, they all are, for now, doing their best to learn and pay attention.

Renard and Will studying with Myra

Max and KayKay studying with Yoly

Christian and Zion studying with Yanira

Kevin and Tee studying with Magdalena

Demani and Mackenzie studying with Maria

Manny studying with Leslie (Jesse will join them Thursday)
And then there's Ronnie and Jessica