Globetrotter has a powerful message: no bullying


Harlem Globetrotters "Slick" Willie Shaw shows students how to spin a basket ball on their fingers after speaking to them about how to prevent bullying at Saint Patrick Interparish school on February 27, 2013, in Gainesville, Fla.

Elizabeth Hamilton/Correspondent
Published: Wednesday, February 27, 2013 at 9:00 p.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, February 27, 2013 at 9:00 p.m.

When second-grader Tessa Boudreaux heard there would be a celebrity appearance at St. Patrick Interparish School, she guessed it would be SpongeBob SquarePants.

However, the guest speaker didn't resemble the canary yellow sponge who resides in Bikini Bottom. Instead, a towering, 6-foot-6 man with black braided, shoulder-length hair entered the gymnasium. He grasped an American flag-themed basketball in his hand and donned a crimson red jumpsuit stamped with the words "Harlem Globetrotters" across the front.

Tessa was one of more than 300 students, faculty and staff who listened to Harlem Globetrotter "Slick" Willie Shaw discuss the "ABCs of Bullying Prevention" at the school this afternoon. The star also visited the Queen of Peace Catholic Academy to inform students there about bully prevention — and to inform them about the Globetrotters' March 7 performance at 7 p.m. at the O'Connell Center.

Shaw said the program was designed by the Globetrotters to reduce violence and bullying among children in communities and schools nationwide. It incorporates the Globetrotters' signature ball-handling skills and crowd-engaging entertainment to educate students on three skills that help prevent bullying – action, bravery and compassion.

Shaw gave students words of advice such as not to be afraid to take action against bullying, to stand up for others and for students to love each other and work together as a team. He discussed how bullying is not only physical, but now can come across through social media, such as Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

"Bullying will never stop if bullies don't get in trouble," he shouted.

A few students spent some time with the Globetrotter and yelled out their personal ideas of solutions to bullying. The participants were then invited down to the middle of the gym to learn a few ball-handling tricks from the pro himself. Five children were given their own skill to learn, from passing the ball under their legs to bouncing it off their heads.

The Trotter even invited Nate McCallister, who helps with the school's maintenance, to perform his own tricks. Shaw advised McCallister to pass the ball over his back, clap twice and then shake his hips to the front, back and from side to side. The gym erupted in a roar of laughter as the students watched McCallister try his hip-shaking dance down in the middle of the basketball court.

"Don't tell my wife about that," McCallister joked about his performance.

Mark Akerman, the school's principal, said he decided to surprise the students with the Globetrotters as a way to teach students a message while providing them with some fun entertainment. He said bullying has become a major issue across the country and it is necessary for schools to educate students and faculty to take a proactive approach on the problem.

"The bully thing is a whole new deal compared to when I was growing up," he said. "I knew bullying as having to do with fists and fighting, but now it's become more behind the scenes with texting and Facebook. It's really hard to deal with, now more than ever."

Akerman said he therefore believes having Shaw or other celebrities come to speak to students is a good way to get them to pay attention and really get engaged in what is being taught. Akerman said kids generally want to imitate their heroes, so when they look at Slick and think he's cool, then they will think not bullying is cool as well.

Shaw said that over the past nine seasons as a Globetrotter, he has been able to be an ambassador of goodwill in the community. While he loves the sport of basketball, Slick said he believes being able to help people out and put a smile on someone's face is really what keeps him going.

"It's more than the basketball — it is the chance to make memories and impact someone's life in a positive way," he said.

However, Slick's hope is to have his message have an impact on at least one person.

"I may not reach everyone, but I may reach one kid in the room," he said. "As long as I get the message through to one person, I feel like my job has been done. Maybe 20 years down the line, he may be like, ‘Hey, I remember Slick Willie from the Globetrotters game and now I want to bring my kid to a game.' That's how the circle of life with the Globetrotters keeps on going on."

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