Social Change Through Hoops
Shooting Touch helps kids excel in basketball and life.
by Adam Figman / @afigman
In 2007, Reebok employee Justin Kittredge took a look around and decided that the city of Boston could be doing more to support its children, both on and off the basketball court. Generally, people in his position would do something to help, maybe by starting a program of some sort.
But Kittredge moves a little quicker. This is the guy who holds the Guinness World Records for most blindfolded free throws made in less than one and two minutes, and for most completed free throws in less than two. So, no, he didn’t found a program to help positively impact the youth.
He founded six.
“We started off just doing this for free,” Kittredge says, “because we knew there were a lot of good kids in the city who were looking for good coaching and mentoring, and just wanted some guidance along the way.”
Currently based in Boston, Shooting Touch, the name of the non-profit organization that sponsors the collection of programs, was established on the premise that basketball’s influence on the lives of children could help better the world around them. One of these programs, Gear 4 Grades, gives kids free basketball gear–sneakers, athletic bags, basketballs, t-shirts, etc.–if they succeed academically, and do well off the court by completing community service and staying out of trouble.
“It’s not like it’s rocket science, but there are a lot of kids out there who only get something for free if they are really good individually or their team excels,” Kittredge says. “So we wanted to come up with something because there are a lot of good kids out there in tough areas [who are] hard workers, and they might not be on the best team in the area, but they still should get rewarded somehow for excelling.”
So far, the program’s been a success: 75 percent of the kids participating increased their GPA from quarter one to quarter two, and ended up reaching the top incentive level (the “3 pt. package”), earning them free basketball shoes and athletic bags. The teams reach the different levels as a whole, which keeps each kid accountable for his or her actions.
Another of the organization’s programs, the Shooting Touch Sabbatical Program, gives one post-grad (in the year following his or her college or graduate school education) a $25,000 grant to travel the world giving back to the community through the game of basketball. The first recipient, Hampton University graduate Tome Barros, is currently abroad, and has already made a huge impact. In his first 35 days, Barros has helped build two basketball courts and ran a three-week camp in Dakar, Senegal, teaching basketball, leadership and how to maintain good health.
Kittredge and his supporters are spreading word of the sabbatical, with hopes that even more young adults will apply.
“We’ve had a great response from the first year with applicants, but the more people find out about this program, the more applicants we’re going to get because of what a great opportunity this is,” he says.
Other programs sponsored by Shooting Touch include: weekly basketball clinics for Boston’s inner-city youth; personalized reversible game uniforms for middle, high school, and college teams; Hall of Fame Coach Bob Hurley’s instructional DVD series; and summer camps and clinics with Coach Hurley. Any profits from the programs are allocated to Hurley’s St. Anthony’s High School or the sabbatical program.
The organization is supported by its Board of Directors, and each member attends a fundraising dinner in April and has a vote for who the recipient of the sabbatical program’s scholarship grant will be. These individuals include NBA players Jason Terry and Danilo Gallinari, Coach Hurley and his son, Bobby Hurley, Jr. (of Duke University and Sacramento Kings fame), and Toronto Raptors Head Coach Jay Triano, among others.
Kittredge notes that Shooting Touch is looking for partnerships, through which he hopes to gain further funding and run an advertising campaign.
“The more money that we bring in, [the more] those proceeds are going back to the programs, because we feel so strong about these initiatives, and the more we can do with them the better [they'll be] as a whole. Long story short, if we do expand, we’d like to expand with our current programs–more throughout the country or the number of recipients going forward,” he says. “We’re just really fortunate in the position that we’re in to be able to do this, and we’re getting excited about the future and where we can go. If anybody is out there that loves the game of basketball, that loves what this program is all about, and wants to get more involved, we would love it.”
He also made a point to thank both Reebok and Powerade, whose assistance has been invaluable over the past few years. And, as far as those free throw records are concerned?
Kittredge laughs. “Yes. We’ve taken a little break, but I think hopefully there will be some new records broken pretty soon.”
For more information or to inquire about a partnership, be sure to visit Shooting Touch’s website at shootingtouch.com.