It was pretty loud inside NYCB Live, Home of the Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum on Tuesday morning. It wasn’t the music or the PA announcer or the natural sounds of a basketball game but rather the crowd. And in this case it was the makeup of the crowd that made for a pretty special atmosphere for the two teams on the court.
The louder than normal crowd noise was because the seats at Nassau Coliseum were occupied by a few thousand students as part of the Long Island Nets’ second annual Education Day game. The kids from grades kindergarten through fifth grade cheered the Nets, the G League affiliate of the Brooklyn Nets, on to a 130-124 victory over the Wisconsin Herd, the affiliate of the Milwaukee Bucks, but the day was more than just about a few hours off from school to watch a basketball game.
There was an educational aspect to the day at the Coliseum and the kids were put to the test with a handbook that was given to them when they entered the arena.
“There’s so much of basketball that relates to science, technology, mathematics and engineering,” said Alton Byrd, the Long Island Nets’ Vice-President of Business Operations. “Every question in the kids’ handbooks are about mathematics, technology and all the trajectories of things that happen in basketball. STEM becomes important and I think kids get it. I think they want more of it and they can see it literally as it unfolds. I think the message that comes from schools is if we’re tied to STEM they’re all in.”
A STEM education is an approach to learning where tough academic concepts are combined with real life lessons in which students can apply Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics in order to make connections between school, work, community and global enterprise.
The questions in the handbook encompassed all of the aspects of STEM.
For example, on the “G League Geography” page, students had to look at a map of the United States with all of the teams laid out across the country and had to answer questions that included “Which state has the most G League teams?” and “What State to the Long Island Nets play in?”
On the “G League Math” page, there were questions like “If there are 14 players on the team and each player needed two pairs of shoes, how many pairs of shoes does the team need?” and “The Nets scored 55 points in the first half. If the final score was 120, how many points did the Nets score in the second half?”
Throw in a boxed lunch for the kids and it was a day to remember for these students from various school districts on Long Island. Last year’s Education Day Game was a big success and this year it was even bigger.
“We’ve had a really good uptick in the number of kids who showed up, the number of schools and the areas from which those schools have come from,” said Byrd. “We’re much happier this year. Last year was year one…this year we’ve grown.”
This season, the Education Day program has expanded to three games. There will be another one at Nassau Coliseum on January 16th for grades six through eight and the crowd is expected to be even bigger for that day than they had on Tuesday. Also, the Nets will hold a third Education Day on February 4th at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn for all grades.
From a personal standpoint, my son Jared’s school attended Tuesday’s game and he couldn’t stop talking about it when he got home later that day. What the Nets were able to do is to give the schools the opportunity for a fun field trip while also not losing sight of what the most important aspect of the day was and that is education.
The Education Day games are just a part of the Long Island Nets’ efforts in the community.
“That’s who we are,” said Byrd. “At the end of the day our goal is to be what I would call a community asset…something that the community can rely on. Whether its lighting trees in Westbury (Monday night), taking folks to Key Foods to help families in need, that’s who we are. The sustainability of the franchise long term is about community.”
Already successful in the community, the Long Island Nets are also off to a great start on the court.
After just missing out on the playoffs last season, the Nets are 8-3 heading into play on Thursday, good for third place in the Eastern Conference and just two games back of the first place and arch-rival Westchester Knicks. With new head coach Will Weaver and a talented roster that includes multiple two way players like Alan Williams and Theo Pinson as well as Dzanan Musa who is an assigned player from Brooklyn, the Nets are playing some good and entertaining basketball.
“They’ve knitted together very well,” said Byrd. “They’re committed to each other. They have a coach that’s been on (Brooklyn Nets Head Coach) Kenny Atkinson’s staff. I think overall we are a better team that we were last year and I think we’ve worked really hard to build a culture where everybody is accountable and everybody likes each other and that helps.”
Perhaps with all the fun that he kids had on Tuesday and that more kids will have at the other Education Days, the Long Island Nets have created more fans that will come back to see more games at Nassau Coliseum. There were thousands of smiles at the game on Tuesday and the Nets are hoping that the parents saw those happy faces and take them back to another game this season.
And why not? The team is pretty good!