My parents weren’t from London and I came from a very working-class background. I grew up on Old Kent Road and went to a school nearby. My school had the 2nd worst GCSE results in Southwark. So, it was an uphill battle to get noticed, to get better, and to get into a good university.
I joined the Greenhouse basketball programme when I was 13. I was 5ft3, very unathletic and I was in middle-set, if not bottom-set, in every class. My ambitions were low, my aspiration was to work in JD Sports, and I had already been excluded twice from school.
After the second exclusion, I got kicked off the basketball team for three months and I had to prove myself to get back on the team. My coach was a guy called Mike – and I hated him. He would send me out of training for making jokes, not giving the sessions my all, and not doing what he said. I didn’t expect an adult to treat me that way and it was a shock.
Getting excluded from school was a catalyst for me. Having to work my way back onto the programme meant I started to take basketball and school more seriously. Mike empowered me to start leading by example and I quickly saw the impact that had on my teammates.
I began to get good at basketball. It was the first time in my life I was good at anything, and I became the best player in our school. I didn’t understand the connection at the time, but my grades shot through the roof. I was in top-set for everything by Year 11.
By the time I got to Year 12, I knew that I wasn’t going to make it as a professional basketball player. But Mike gave me the tools to pursue higher education and I got into Leeds University, got an internship at Goldman Sachs and am now an associate at BlackRock at 25 years old.
What Mike taught me was more than basketball – he taught me the game of life. What it meant to be a man, a team player, taking responsibility and being respectful. He was a friend, a coach, a brother, and a father figure and I was so lucky to have that in my life. My life could have gone in a very different direction. What he did was more than what any teacher would do at school. He didn’t need to teach me all those things. He gave me over and above his pay grade and gave me more time that I should have had. I am very grateful for that. Basketball changed my life.
The Greenhouse model works, everything they do for kids like me, it works. I’m Jordan and there are so many of me that are in these areas of London, that need a coach like Mike.