Interview with Andy Herzer of 1st Shot Basketball
This week John sat down with Andy Herzer who is the Director of First Shot Basketball, a non-profit youth sports program that focuses on instilling both sports and life principles in "at risk" children through positive coaching of Murfreesboro area youth.
For additional info on 1st Shot visit www.1stShotBasketball.com
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JOHN: Hey, John Jones with an edition of Tuesday Morning Coffee. Thank you so much for being here. I’m excited to present my good friend, Andy Herzer. Andy and I go back a few years, and Andy is a veteran 18-year collegiate basketball coach in NCAA. He coached at MTSU and he loved Murfreesboro so much, he said, “You know what? I’ve decided to call it my home.” And he started a nonprofit—something I think he was moved by, and I’m going to let him tell a story in a little bit—for at-risk kids. And it’s through basketball. 1st Shot Basketball is the name of it.
And they have a winter league coming up, which starts January 4th. And we’ll put the information about this at the end of this segment. But this is a neat deal. My kids have been involved with it before, and it’s more than trying to find a superstar basketball player and a travel league, and all this stuff you hear about today. This is about giving kids a chance to compete in basketball, but more than that to learn about biblical principles, to learn about character, confidence, learning about being a part of something bigger than themselves.
So Andy, first of all, how did this even cross your radar? You’d been in the trenches as a collegiate coach recruiting 15-, 16-, 17-year-old kids for a living and all of a sudden you go to something like this. Must have been a heck of a transition.
ANDY: Well, I can just tell you the first time I sat in front of 5-year-old kids, I used words like integrity. And you know, John, the deer in the headlights came on and I’m going, “Man, I’m really out of my league. I don’t know what I’ve started here and what I’ve done.” But it was really not about me. And I think that’s what I’ve learned over the last five, six years of doing this. It’s really about the kids, and we’ve got a lot of at-risk kids here in Murfreesboro.
I think sometimes we all put blinders on too that we’ve got a lot of kids that can’t get to the Boys and Girls Club or the Y. They’re our street kids, so we’ve started working down at Patterson Park putting on some camps during spring break, fall break and we exposed them to more than just basketball. Last time we did dance, and no John, I’m not teaching the dance.
JOHN: That’s good.
ANDY: I can’t dance and chew gum. But we go out and get people who are competent in that area or they teach those skills. But at the end of the day, the whole thing is just plant the seed of Christ in them and love them and hopefully teach them some character. It’s not so much give them a handout but give them a hand up. And we think through sports—it attracts kids to it—that we can teach those biblical truths.
JOHN: So really, more than anything, basketball is just kind of a magnet to get these kids doing something, get them inside, and get them under your care.
ANDY: Well, you know, it’s amazing, John. We’ve started. We’ve added golf and tennis. But we say if you don’t go to golf and tennis, you can’t come to basketball. They all want to play basketball. It’s all they’re exposed to for most of their life. So to get them out of their comfort zone and not be afraid to try something new, it’s like those two sports that you and I know, if they can learn to hit a golf ball, a lot of business deals are made out there on that golf course, a lot of friendships. So there’s more than just basketball out there.
That’s one of things we’re trying to teach. The next thing we’re adding is a theater part to this and a music part to it. And during it, they’re going to have to come in and we’re going to help them do some reading and some math to get them up to speed because it opens doors. And we’re just trying to give them their first shot, John.
JOHN: That’s awesome. What age groups do you kind of focus on?
ANDY: We think you’ve really got to get them early. That gets a little harder and a little tougher to get as they get into high school. So we’re starting at age 5 and we go all the way up through junior high.
JOHN: Okay. And your winter league is starting up. Tell us a little about how the people can get involved in that and put their children in that. And guys, let me make something clear. It’s not just for at-risk kids. My kids got involved in it, and they had a blast and loved it. So it’s for any kid out there. Correct?
ANDY: I call it a by-product, John. I mean, I started the camps and then my pastor came to me and said, “Andy, we want a youth winter league” so I started a winter league. It started with 20 kids. Now we have over 200+ kids in it. It goes from ages 5 through age 8th grade and you can help in many ways. The first way, you can volunteer if you want to and help coach. And I will tell you the best coaches we have know nothing about basketball.
They come; they learn themselves; they get involved with the kids. And they’re there more for the kids than trying to probably teach it their way. It’s an old-school fundamental league, as you know, because your kids have participated in it.
JOHN: Andy, many would say that this is kind of the antithesis of what society is telling us we need to be doing with our kids. Society tells us right now that we need to figure out by the age of 5 years old what they’re going to be and start putting them in a travel team or with a special coach and getting them on special diets at the age of 5 or 6 and travel leagues and making it a year-round thing. Now what do you say to something that says that?
ANDY: Well, I think at 5 years old if you can tell me that that kid’s going to be a college basketball player, you’ve got a gift that someone needs to hire you.
JOHN: You need to be in Vegas probably.
ANDY: Yes. Because honestly, John, you never know if someone’s going to grow and be 6’10” or they’re big and they stop growing and they’re 5’10.” And size in basketball and all that stuff matters a lot in sports and how athletic you are, but I think you can use sports in a lot of different ways. I mean, my son’s in junior high and freshman this year. He played freshman football. I encouraged him to. And he’s got a chance to be a college basketball player.
ANDY: But I think by being exposed to different sports, A you’re not going to get burned out. B you’re really going to find out what you’re passionate about because if you’re not really passionate about football, you’re going to find that out quick once you get hit.
JOHN: Well, let’s all face it, and this is what I think society does not get and then I could probably say I was guilty of this for several years. There’s a very small minute percentage of kids that are ever going to play professional ball. And even there’s not a whole lot that are going to have even the opportunity to play college. But I would dare say that all of us have learned valuable lessons from sports. And I was a kid who hung on a coach’s every word, and I think most kids do.
Sometimes you didn’t understand those words a whole lot then, but they planted the seeds that eight years down the road you say, “Hey, I see what Coach was getting at.” And that’s the impact coaches can have. Wouldn’t you agree, Andy?
ANDY: I think they have such a remarkable—
JOHN: Good or bad.
ANDY: Good or bad. And that’s just what I was trying to figure out the word for. I think we can look back and think right away. I can think of one coach if I saw him today, I’d have a real hard time speaking to him. But I can think of four or five others that made such an impactful—you know, things in my life that they gave up their time. They took me to summer camps. They opened up the gym at 5 in the morning so I could come in and shoot. They spent time away from their family to give me something because I had a dream and a passion.
And I think that’s what coaches can do. I think they can get out there and they can awake that passion and that dream and help plant those seeds for success.
JOHN: Well, that’s awesome, Andy. You’re doing great things with your ministry. I call it a ministry because they do teach kids about Jesus Christ, and that’s so important because some of these kids aren’t getting that in the home. But Andy, tell us how to find out about you. Is the best place to go to your website?
ANDY: 1stShotBasketball.net and you can go on there; you can click on links and go to the winter league. We have several different leagues that we have during the course of the year.
JOHN: And that will give them all the signup and the dates and everything.
ANDY: And you go and register online right there.
ANDY: You can either pay by check or pay by credit card.
JOHN: Well, that’s great. Well, Andy, we wish you the best. Keep it up, keep doing it. It’s grown unbelievably because I was there one of the first years, and now the numbers are staggering.
ANDY: I think when your two sons were in we had 35 kids.
JOHN: Well, one thing you’ll like about Andy is you’ll hear him in the gym and he’s got the old coaches yell, yelling things out in a positive way, but by the third day, he has no voice. And so here in about another month we’ll see Andy without a voice. He’ll be hoarse just like most of the coaches you see when they do the interviews on TV. So Andy, thank you man. Thanks for coming on today. Keep doing what you’re doing.
ANDY: I appreciate it.