Inside Events: Teammate Basketball
29 Jul, 2021By: Mary Helen Sprecher
An Interview with Blake Thompson, Owner
Teammate Basketball is a grassroots basketball organization with the mission of empowering youth through competitive basketball events while positively impacting the communities in which they are held. Teammate Basketball’s philosophy can be summed up as follows: The traits that make a great teammate are the same traits that will carry over into other areas of a young athlete’s life, including selflessness, work ethic, communication, respect, reliability and good sportsmanship. All these traits contribute to success on the court but also serve as essential life skills. The organization’s goal is to foster an environment not only where athletes’ basketball skills can be enhanced and exposed but also where kids can learn what it takes to be the ultimate teammate.
Sports Destination Management: What age groups does Teammate Basketball serve?
Blake Thompson: We have events for boys and girls, 8U to 18U – or in other words, from second grade all the way through high school.
SDM: Do you host events nationwide?
Thompson: We host in 14 states and our season runs between February and June. We’ve just finished hosting our national championship at the Virginia Beach Sports Center in Virginia Beach, where we hosted approximately 300 teams. Our regular-season tournaments typically don’t draw as many teams as our national championship but some of our flagship events like The Gatlinburg Hardwood Classic in Gatlinburg, Tennessee in February and The Great Eight event in Spartanburg, South Carolina in March always easily exceed 100 teams.
SDM: Did COVID impact you?
Thompson: It did. We had been hosting our national championship in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee since 2017 and had planned to return there in 2020, but with COVID, large gatherings were restricted in Tennessee so we had to move the event to Rock Hill, South Carolina. We held our championship in July of 2020 at the Rock Hill Sports & Event Center and hosted 188 teams total. The kids were thankful to have the opportunity to play, and I think the city of Rock Hill was a tremendous partner in making sure we had the chance to host the tournament as safely and practically as possible during what was a difficult time to manage large gatherings.
SDM: When you’re looking for a facility to host an event, what are you specifically trying to find?
Thompson: We prefer venues with multiple courts under one roof – we like to have at least 10 or 12 courts. There are times when we are in a host city and use one court here, one there, two in another place, and so on. That can be a burden to teams and organizations who have traveled a significant distance to the host city, and then incur a lot of extra travel during the tournament bouncing from one gym to the next.
The good news now is that there are these phenomenal multi-court facilities popping up all over the place. We have a great relationship with SFM and have used a number of events in their facilities. There are so many obvious benefits to hosting all under one roof. Kids can walk around and check out other games, network with other teams, and of course, coaches can come watch the players they want to see. Our national championship is heavily attended by college coaches at the DII and DIII level, as well as those from NJCAA and NAIA.
Another thing we’re looking for is things to do off the courts. Even though we mostly put on two-day tournaments, there’s downtime built into the schedule. In Virginia Beach for our national championship for example, families get to take advantage of visiting the beach and seeing the sights. We like to have a strong partnership with the local sports commission or CVB as well; it definitely adds value to our teams when we're on the same page with the host city.
SDM: If someone wants to host Teammate Basketball events, how do they go about expressing interest?
Thompson: Anyone who is interested can e-mail us at email@example.com.
SDM: You mentioned having prospective coaches see players; do you live stream games to broaden the reach?
Thompson: We do; we have a partnership with BallerTV. A lot of teams are interested in streaming right now. It's great to offer a live stream option for family back home that maybe couldn't travel to the tournament. Live streaming was also helpful last season in 2020, when many people were still hesitant to want to travel to larger events.
SDM: It must be great to have live events back.
Thompson: We’re really glad they are back. The teams love to travel out of town to different tournaments, it's a great opportunity to compete against teams they've never seen before. We're grateful to be back in action.
SDM: Are the kids who are playing generally very competitive?
Thompson: Some teams are extremely competitive, made up of the best young players in an area, but some are just playing because they love the game and want the experience of playing travel hoops - and we're okay with that. Teammate Basketball is in its fifth year of existence and we’re starting to see kids who played with us in the past, now playing at the college level. It’s good to know that we are a piece of the puzzle in their basketball journey.
Another important thing our organization has come to realize is that there is no greater threat to youth sports right now than poor behavior on the part of parents and spectators. The young men and women playing in our tournaments should be the priority. Adults and coaches have to be at their best, so that our youth can be at theirs. And about 95 percent of the people who come through our doors do understand that. Kids want to have fun and play. We want to make that happen. Winning is great, but we have to make sure our young players know that there is also value in defeat.