U of MD Alumni Remember #34

June 29, 2020

by Jamal Williams

On Friday June 19, the Howard County alumni association hosted a zoom call to commemorate the 34th anniversary of the death of Len Bias. With some 40 people on the call, featured guest Dave Ungrady, author of the book Born Ready: The Mixed Legacy of Len Bias, shared his fondest memories of what Bias meant to the school, his legacy as a basketball player and the effect his death had on the nation at large.

“I saw what Len’s death did to the athletic department…there were a lot of cases where people’s lives changed, negatively and positively,” said Ungrady, a 1980 graduate of Maryland who was a member of the soccer and track and field teams at the school.

Videos were used to show the legacy Bias left behind and why his story still resonates today. The videos depicted a possible matchup of Bias vs. Micheal Jordan in the NBA, explained the 1986 Anti-Drug Abuse Act and showed the effect Bias’ death had on Len’s teammates, friends and family.

During the call former Baltimore Sun reporter Don Markus recalled his memories of writing about Bias at Maryland. “It didn’t take long for me to realize that this guy was a stud,” he said.” I had just finished covering Chris Mullins (former St. John’s University basketball player), and even he couldn’t touch Len Bias in terms of his overall impact on a college basketball game.” 

Further, Markus described the fallout from Bias’ death as a blow to the athletic department at Maryland. Basketball head coach Lefty Driesell and football head coach Bobby Ross both resigned. “It really impacted the program for a long time,” said Markus. “It was not only the most important story I covered but it was the most long-lasting and far reaching story I covered in my career,” said Markus.

The 34 + 1 campaign promotes youth education

Ungrady also discussed the overall meaning behind the 34 + 1 campaign he created to help teach people about Bias’ story. “

We’re really trying to use this campaign as a way to educate teenagers and young adults about what happens when you make bad decisions,” said Ungrady.

Ungrady and Markus have begun work on a documentary about Bias that is part of the 34+1 campaign. 

During The Coronavirus Crisis, Ways to Act Resilient

March 20, 2020

With the Covid-19 Coronavirus crisis, we are facing challenging and difficult situations that mount daily, if not hourly. We face a time when resilience, or the ability to recover quickly from a difficult or challenging situation. plays an important part in our lives. 

As part of the Born Ready Project, I developed a program that offers ways to act resilient. and have spoken to youth in large and small settings about the importance of resilience when facing a challenge. Such situations may include an injury, missing a soccer penalty kick in a shootout, a serious illness, the loss of a loved one, or a natural tragedy that drastically disrupts your life. I also pass along these tips to youth as a high school teacher and a professional soccer coach. 

In my latest Born Ready blog, I suggest five ways to stay resilient through a crisis. This can help everyone effectively endure this challenging time.

Stay Positive – It’s difficult to see the light at the end of tunnel that gets clogged every day with more unsettling information about the virus and how it is affecting our lives. The key here is to find and embrace positive moments and situations, and not lose sight of a future that will improve.

As a teacher, I am fortunate to still receive my pay while we sort out the best ways to adjust our teaching methods to suit every student remotely. With schools closed and my wife able to work full time from home, I’ve assumed the role of caretaker for our nine-year-old son, Cayden.

Already I’ve seen the positive benefits of spending more relaxed time with Cayden. Each day we’ve either gone outside for a few hours to play soccer and/or basketball, or riding a bike. Sure, we annoy each other at times, but we also engage in moments of healthy laughter and light conversation. All the activity and quality interaction helps us justify allowing more time for him to watch television or play games on his mobile device. 

Find ways to enjoy each day, and relish the positive moments. Perhaps a young soccer player will spend more time fine-tuning skills, such as juggling or kicking swerved balls against a wall, that will help him when organized play resumes. 

Take some time to imagine what life will be like once this Corona crisis is over, focusing on the lessons you may have learned and ways you can improve your life. At that point, you will likely have to…

Accept Change – anytime we fight change, we embrace feelings that make us more anxious and increase our stress levels. Accepting and embracing change will place you in a more positive frame of mind. 

A competitive athlete knows that resisting and fighting a challenge makes it harder to conquer that challenge. For example, during a conditioning exercise, it helps to welcome every set of sprints, not dread them. Accept that they will cause discomfort, but you will get through them, and be better off once they are completed. 

When a challenge confronts you, take a deep breath, accept the situation and then…

Set Realistic Goals – When you face a drastic change, assess the situation and set realistic goals that will help you work through the challenge. If you are an injured athlete, set time frames to return to comfortable physical activity, then training and ultimately to competition. If you are laid off from a job, quickly research your work options. Do you need a job in a week, or a month? Assess your financial situation and plan a budget 3 or 6 months out. Setting realistic goals will help you understand that there is an endpoint, and see the future in a more positive way. It also helps to…

Take Care of Yourself – to help recover from a challenge, it helps to maintain a strong sense of yourself, and focus on healthy activities that make you feel better and bring joy to your day. They can include meditation, exercise, maintaining clean personal habits, enjoying fun family activities and talking with someone who may provide emotional support. That’s a great way to…

Connect with Others – There’s a good reason why team sports focus on teamwork. One athlete alone can not provide the best result. Teams can not perform to their full potential without practicing together, getting to know each other’s tendencies, and becoming comfortable as a group despite disparate personalities. As part of a team, you connect with each other to overcome challenges. 

To overcome any challenge, connect with others who are facing similar challenges. You will learn things others are doing to help them conquer the challenge. And you will likely find that you can offer advice to help others as well. Working as a team, you will improve your chances, and those of others, to overcome any challenge. 

Inspirational Video – To end on a fun note, here’s a video that shows the resilience of Cayden, then 22-months old, trying to shoot a basketball through a hoop. Try to figure out which of the tips he most displayed while staying resilient. 

Decades Ago Morgan Wootten Taught Me an Unexpected Lesson

January 26, 2020

With the passing earlier this week of Morgan Wootten, I was compelled to think of my most memorable interaction with the famed coach. 

I had heard so much about Wootten in the 1970s and 1980s while I was a track and soccer athlete at the University of Maryland and later practiced my journalism career in the Washington, D.C. area. He was a coach and mentor to some of the best high school basketball talent in the country and coached some of the best teams at DeMatha Catholic High School in Hyattsville. He was old-school honorable, respectful, competitive, and inspirational.

I had observed Wootten admirably from a distance until the early 1990s. At that time one of my journalism jobs involved work as a sports anchor and reporter for CTV News on Prince George’s County Community Television. We relied heavily on the schools’ sports teams to provide video they recorded of their games for highlight packages. Over a few years, I recall receiving video from coach Wootten only one time. It was one experience I will never forget.

When I picked up the video from his office at the school, coach Wootten emphatically asked me to ensure I return it. I promised that I would do so. 

A few days later I searched for the video to return to coach Wootten, but I could not find it. I looked throughout the newsroom, in the video storage area, and in the control room. I asked colleagues if they had seen it. Soon I realized it was gone. I felt badly about breaking my promise, but I thought, perhaps disrespectfully, that it was no big deal. It’s one tape about one game. He’ll probably forget about it, anyway. 

No such chance. A few days later coach Wootten called to ask about the tape. I told him that I had lost it and apologized for my mistake. I attended 12 years of Catholic school growing up in New Jersey and understood both the schools’ harsh approaches to discipline and the value of forgiveness. I expected coach Wootten, a staunch Catholic, to favor the latter principle, especially since I was not one of his students or players. I had hoped he would find a way to accept the transgression as a minor inconvenience. 

He did not. I don’t recall the exact words he used to express his disappointment, but they were not kind, and lacked any trace of forgiveness. Further, I was surprised by his calm, but pointed and extended expression of disappointment. I felt as if he was talking to one of his students who had cheated on a history test, or a player who ignored one of his directions at practice. I felt he as if he wanted me to feel guilt and remorse for my mistake, and I did. I also felt a bit of, are you kidding me? People make mistakes. It was an honest error. Can’t you see that?

Upon reflection, I understood the reasons for his admonishments. He was a coach and a teacher, and this was a teachable moment. And, although I was an adult in my early 30s, I realized he felt the need to teach me a lesson about respecting another person’s property and the importance of keeping a promise. 

The incident carries more significance to me now that I am a public school teacher, a youth travel soccer coach and a teacher of leadership skills through my Born Ready Project. In all capacities, I stress the values of respect and forgiveness. 

Years after the video tape incident, coach Wootten took part in a video project I produced about youth sports leadership. And most recently, he took my calls when I asked him questions for my book about Len Bias. He was very accommodating, gracious and accessible. 

And, it turns out, he forgave me after all.

Free Minds Book Club member calls the BRP “some real-life stuff”

May 8, 2015

Below is a testimonial letter that I am proud to share because it shows the Born Ready Project’s potential to help change lives in a positive way.

Dave

Free Minds Book Club & Writing Workshop, a non-profit in Washington DC that uses books and creative written expression to empower incarcerated youth at the DC jail, was privileged to have Dave Ungrady, author of the book “Born Ready: The Mixed Legacy of Len Bias” give a presentation on the importance of productive decision making to our April apprentices!

Free Minds apprentices are young men who have gone through all three phases of our program, Book Club, Continuing Support and Re-entry Support.  As part of our book club, they were youth between the ages of 15-17, charged as adults at the DC jail where we visited them twice a week to hold our book club sessions.  While in Continuing Support, we sent the guys books that they requested, our monthly newsletter the “Connect,” letters and birthday cards, and Re-entry Support that helps our released members attain job readiness, community support and educational resources.

Dave visited us and conducted an engaging and informative session incorporating facets of his real life experiences, a video presentation about the life of Len Bias as well as a well prepared power point presentation that kept our apprentices engaged and inquisitive!  One of our apprentices’, 17 year old Leon Epps, said “I really appreciated some of the things that he was teaching us, it was some real life stuff.” 

FreeMinds_with the boys

Dave and apprentices of the Free Minds Book Club after his presentation.

Dave introduced our apprentices to concepts such as the varying degrees of decision making, tools to making good decisions and how the decisions they make impact them and the people in their lives.  One of the main goals of our apprenticeship program is to help our apprentices change their lives by changing their thought process so Dave presentation was a perfect fit! 

Our apprentices greatly benefited from Dave’s presentation, and when we conducted our post apprenticeship evaluation, we asked the apprentices to list the sessions that they enjoyed the most, and more than half of them selected Mr. Ungrady’s session as one of their top choices.  We are very grateful for Dave’s participation and have invited him back for another session during our next apprenticeship starting in June.

Keela Hailes, Program Manager

Free MInds Book Club and Writing Workshop

Born Ready Project Supports umttr.org 3v3 Hoops Benefit Tournament

May 6, 2015

umttr final logo

 

Since Evan Rosenstock took his life in May 2013, his friends and family have rallied to support suicide prevention and education. Most emphatically, the group started umttr, a community of young adults leading a movement to change the story from bullying, depression and suicide to a compassionate culture where every person matters.

umttr’s marquee fund raising event is a 3v3 basketball tournament, which will take place June 14 at Walt Whitman High School in Bethesda, Maryland. The Born Ready Project is a promotional partner with umttr and has donated a speech to those attending.

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Dave Ungrady, author of Born Ready: The Mixed Legacy of Len Bias and the founder of the project, will speak at the event about the importance of good decision making. Books will be available for purchase.

The event will showcase 8th – 12th grade basketball players (coed), men’s basketball (under 50 and over 50), and feature celebrity appearances, speakers, politicians and a silent auction. Proceeds from the event will support student mental health and wellness organizations.

For more information, contact Susan Rosenstock at 202-679-6869, susan@umttr.org. Register here.

GoGrady Media Supports Capital Classic Hoops

April 7, 2015

The Capital Classic High School All-Star Game will take place for the 42n consecutive year on April 24, and GoGrady Media, along with the Born Ready Project, will have a presence at the event.

GoGrady Media is offering media consulting services to the event, helping primarily with media outreach. Further, tournament organizers will allow GoGrady Media president Dave Ungrady to sell his book, Born Ready: The Mixed Legacy of Len Bias, at the event. Proceeds from book sales will benefit the Born Ready Project’s Youth Leadership Fund, which support speeches about life skills to teenagers and young adults in underserved communities.

2015 CAPITAL_CLASSIC_LOGO_Color (1)

When the Capital Classic was first staged in 1974, the game featuring Moses Malone attracted some 11,000 spectators at the old Capital Centre in Landover, Maryland. At that time, it was one of only two national high school all star games. The other was the Dapper Dan Classic in Pittsburgh. The Capital Classic soon became the preeminent national high school all-star game. Over the years, it has featured such stars at Ralph Sampson, Len Bias, Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson, Patrick Ewing, and LeBron James.

Over the last decade, the game has changed management and lost some of its prestige. But Bob Geoghan, the event founder, resumed control of the event in 2011 and along with DMV Elite is trying to revive its status as the premier national game for high school basketball stars.

The 2015 game will be played at Catholic University’s DuFour Center.  Click here for more information about tickets, etc.

BRP Safe Summer Speeches Set for Late July and Early August

February 6, 2015

Some three decades ago G. Van Standifer started a midnight basketball league in Prince George’s County, Maryland as a safe haven for teens and young adults. The program placed youth in a safe environment with late night basketball and mandatory education counseling, mentoring and personal development workshops.

The program started in 1986, the same year Len Bias died of a cocaine overdose. An extension of the midnight basketball exists today in Safe Summer, operated by the Prince George’s County Parks and Recreation’s Xtreme Teens program.

xtreme_teens_logo_use

 

And the Born Ready Project, developed from the book Born Ready: The Mixed Legacy of Len Bias, is proud to announce it will be part of Safe Streets this summer. In late July and early August BRP founder Dave Ungrady will make speeches at three community centers.  The date are as follows:

July 29 – Marlow Heights Community Center, Temple Hills MD
Aug. 6 – Kentland Community Center, Landover, MD
Aug. 7 – John. E Howard Community Center, Capital Heights, MD

BRPs Safe Summer presentations mark Ungrady’s return to the Xtreme Teens program. He spoke at six recreation centers in Prince George’s County during the winter of 2014 through Xtreme Teens.

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Dave Ungrady speaks to youth at the Columbia Park Recreation Center in March 2014 as part of the Xtreme Teens program.

 

The Safe Summer speeches are supported in part through the BRP’s Youth Leadership campaign.

For more information, contact Dave Ungrady at djungrady27@gmail.com, 703-282-5259 and Stephen Makle of Xtreme Teens at Stephen.Makle@pgparks.com, 301-446-3408.

 

GoGrady Media Partners with Loudoun Soccer to Produce Player Videos

February 3, 2015

February 3, 2015

GoGrady Media, with support from Loudoun Soccer, is offering a promotional video package for youth players. Players can use the videos to promote themselves to college coaches, assisting their efforts to play college soccer, and will be marketed primarily to high school sophomores, juniors and seniors.

Dave Ungrady, founder and president of Grady Media and developer of the Born Ready Project, will produce the videos. Dave is an author who has vast experience as a multi-media journalist. He has done on air and production work for ESPN, CNN, NBC and Voice of America and produced Loudoun Soccer TV in 2013. Dave is also a professional coach with Loudoun Soccer, primarily as head coach of 03 and 05 boys teams and head coach of recreational all-star teams.

Players who use the service will be eligible to receive Born Ready Project counseling about ways to make good decisions.

For more information about the videos, contact Dave at dave@gogradymedia.com, 703-282-5259. To contact Loudoun Soccer, call 703-777-9977.

Born Ready Youth Leadership Tour Debuts in Virginia

December 27, 2014

The first Born Ready Project Youth Leadership Tour took place Dec. 2 at T.C. Williams H.S. in Alexandria, Virginia at its fall sports banquet. Born Ready Project founder Dave Ungrady spoke to some 200 athletes and their parents about the importance decision making for about 25 minutes before the athletes received their awards.

Here’s what William Campbell, a member of the Alexandria City School Board, said about the speech: “I wholeheartedly endorse the Born Ready Project, Despite our time constraints, Dave was able to present our group a truncated yet extremely powerful portion of the motivational message. We had two team coaches ask if we could have him back to do a longer presentation to their individual teams! We look forwarded to quickly having him back in the Alexandria community.”

The Youth Leadership Tour is supported by donations made to the Born Ready Project through its GoFundMe campaign. The next Youth Leadership Tour speech will take place early in 2015.

“Born Ready” Author To Write New Terps Books

December 27, 2014

Dave Ungrady, the author of the book Born Ready: The Mixed Legacy of Len Bias, has signed with Triumph Books to write his fourth book about the history of athletics at his alma mater, the University of Maryland. The new book, “100 Things Terps Fans Should Know and Do Before They Die”, is due for a fall 2015 release. It will be published by Triumph Books.

Ungrady’s previous books about Terps athletics include the best selling “Tales from the Maryland Terrapins: A Collection of the Greatest Stories Ever Told (2003, updated in 2014); Legends of Maryland Basketball (2004). In 1998 Ungrady’s self-published his first book, Unlucky: A Season of Struggle in Minor League Professional Soccer”.

Ungrady, president of GoGrady Media and founder of the Born Ready Project, was a member of two sports at Maryland (soccer and track and field) and was an all conference middle distance runner and track team captain. He is a 1980 graduate of the university.