The Tigers Roar into the First Basketball Season at Hamilton 

February 23, 2011

Hamilton Students Play Bball
The Hamilton Tigers play basketball during their first ever basketball season.
Hamilton Tigers Pride
The Hamilton Center shows off its school pride.

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The Hamilton Tigers had their first ever basketball season this fall at the Hamilton Center, a school that provides specialized instruction to students who are diagnosed as emotionally disturbed in grades first through eighth.

Although neither the elementary nor secondary teams had a winning season, the school staff and coaches agree: there are some rising stars on the team.

Scott Sugarman, principal at Hamilton, said there were many conversations last school year about starting up a basketball team, not just for the sake of playing sports, but also to provide the students with an alternative avenue to practice social skills with one another.

“Really, at the heart of what we were trying to do, is we really wanted our kids to be a team and to be exposed to difficult or less controlled social situations so they would have to learn how to react and how to control themselves,” said Principal Sugarman.

And so the Hamilton Tigers came to be. Principal Sugarman and his coaches set up two teams – a lower team that had nine students in the elementary grades and an upper team that had eight students in middle school grades.

George Dunbar, coach of the upper team, said that sportsmanship was a huge goal for both teams.

Both he and Principal Sugarman said the students exemplified sportsmanship and teamwork.

“I was really proud when on several occasions, when another kid fell or another fouled him and he fell, our team would help him up. That’s really what we were trying to get at and what we were looking for, and that was really important for us to see,” said Principal Sugarman.

Principal Sugarman said the whole school got involved in the excitement of having two basketball teams.

Hamilton organized at spirit week at school, and students dressed up each day to a different theme.

The week culminated with a homecoming game. A deejay played music, signs plastered the gymnasium and the players ran through a team banner as more than 50 people cheered.

Kevin Shepperson, who works with Positive Nature, a nonprofit organization that DCPS has partnered with to provide intensive on-site professional development for DCPS staff in school with students with emotional disturbances, coached the lower team.

In his role as coach, Mr. Shepperson said he saw first-hand the positive effects the basketball team had on the students.

“I knew that there hadn’t been sports in this school for a long time,” said Mr. Shepperson. “In order to get the kids to stay in the classroom, stay on task and stay positive, we had to get them something they wanted to do, too.”

He talked about one student who he referred to as an inspiration. This student exhibited some truly negative behaviors, Mr. Shepperson said, and as a result, he had frequent timeouts.

Mr. Shepperson said he decided to ask the 11-year-old to join the basketball team and to give him a leadership role in handing out uniforms and cheering on the team. As the season progressed and the student got more involved with basketball, Mr. Shepperson said the student’s negative behavior stopped in class.

He also said the student’s reading improved by multiple grade levels, and that he heard from other schools that the students is the number one point guard at the elementary school level, scoring at least 12 points and 10-12 rebounds per game.

“I have never seen this kid smile so much in my life,” said Mr. Shepperson.

At the end of the season, losses and wins didn’t matter. The Hamilton Tigers worked together as a team, and all of the school staff and their families were proud of them.

“All of the kids have promising futures,” said Principal Sugarman. “They all have passion and a love for playing sports, and the teams have standouts with skills that can turn them into really good players.”

The basketball season has ended, but the opportunity to participate in sports at Hamilton has not. Because of the success of the season, Hamilton is starting a track and field team for the spring.

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