For 33 years former NBA player Mike Glenn has been carrying on a tradition begun by his father.
Glenn’s father established the sports programs at Georgia School for the Deaf when it was segregated.
“I grew up around deaf kids and understand the challenges they faced,” Glenn said. “It was just a normal part of life for me. I was always hanging out at the school.”
Glenn was in Decatur June 17-22 for his 33rd annual Mike Glenn Basketball Camp for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing at Clairmont Presbyterian Church. Glenn and several volunteer coaches worked with 102 campers from schools for the deaf across the Southeast and as far away as Iowa, New Jersey and Pennsylvania. The camp is for high school students ages 14-18.
Glenn created the camp in 1980 while he was a member of the New York Knicks. The camp in Long Island, N.Y., was the nation’s first basketball camp for hearing-challenged athletes. Glenn said he started the camp in Atlanta in 1982 and for two years ran both camps.
In addition to the Knicks, he also played for the Buffalo Braves, Atlanta Hawks and Milwaukee Bucks.
“The camp is such a tradition that the excitement is still there,” said Glenn, who had a 10-year career in the NBA. “The camp creates an energy and people are always calling us making sure they don’t miss it. A lot of former campers come back and volunteer with us after graduation.”
In addition to improving on basketball fundamentals, campers hear speakers throughout the week. Former professional athletes as well as other public figures come to the camp to speak to the participants.
“Successful people want to share their success and challenges, and everyone really enjoys it,” Glenn said.
Speakers who have dropped by in the past include former Atlanta Braves outfielder David Justice, former Atlanta mayor and diplomat Andrew Young and Martin Luther King III. One of the speakers this year was an artist who combined melted crayons with acrylic paints to create sports paintings. Glenn posed for a photograph so the artist could use Glenn’s silhouette for a painting.
The camp, Glenn pointed out, is not only for those who are hearing impaired. Nearly 20 percent of the campers have no hearing disability.
“They might have players, coaches or teachers at their schools who are deaf,” Glenn said. “It’s a great experience for them. Like our T-shirts say, we celebrate diversity through basketball. We have players who can hear, those who are hearing impaired, males, females and the group is culturally diverse.”