Youth basketball camps aren’t cheap, so Mike Barnes did what any coach in his position might do: He found a way to make it more affordable.
Over the next several weeks, he’s hosting a camp at Riverdale Neighborhood House through Courageous Athletic Leaders Forever Industries — or much more simply, CALF. The program costs less than $20 a week, and is open to both boys and girls between 7 and 14.
“For me it wasn’t about the income, it was more or less about spreading the word and providing a safe-haven for the children in the area,” Barnes said.
“A lot of children needed somewhere to go. I wanted to keep the price down, expand, and give children the opportunity to after-school programming.”
The spring basketball clinic has already tipped-off in Riverdale, but there’s more to come.
“Everyone is anticipating the summer,” Barnes said. “We’ll have a full-on summer camp for basketball, probably a tournament. We would like to turn this into a fun league.”
A former collegiate basketball player, Barnes ultimately spent 10 years working in accounting for Mick Jagger and his legendary rock band the Rolling Stones.
“As I was approaching my 11th year with the Rolling Stones, I was sitting in my chair and I realized my purpose was bigger,” Barnes said. “I got what I needed to get by working under the Rolling Stones. I learned business structure. But I just needed more.”
He found that fulfillment on the hardcourt.
“Basketball has been in my blood my whole life,” Barnes said. “It was my first sport that I was introduced to as a child, and certainly my last.”
He now returns that favor, bringing basketball to the children of Riverdale and Kingsbridge.
Developing CALF was a “calculated risk,” Barnes said, “but I knew I would succeed because I have the passion for it, and my background is basketball. I love working with children. It made sense for me. It just took having the courage to take the risk.”
This risk brings along a rewarding experience for others, Barnes said.
“My passion has always been basketball because of the life lessons that you can learn from it,” he said. “From the team aspect, strategic thinking, working together, and developing a camaraderie as a team — If you project forward, it could emulate the workplace environment.”
One life lesson is especially important at CALF.
“Our logo is a calf wearing shades, which are hater blockers,” Barnes said. “At CALF, we just focus on getting better personally and within the team. We don’t welcome outside noise or distractions.”
It’s also about having an underdog mentality, too.
“If a team is better athletically, we have to win with strategy, without having star athletes,” Barnes said.
“Developed strategy is just one of the ingredients that I enjoy about basketball.”
And Riverdale was a fitting location.
“The Bronx tend(s) to get left out, so I’m just here serving my purpose and the community,” he said. “I felt that Northern Riverdale was a nice area where the after-school programming and the safe haven with sports kind of needed some attention.”
Barnes launched the program last year with just four kids. As of last week, he’s now at 16. And it’s here to stay.
“We’re not going anywhere,” Barnes said. “We’re just growing and looking forward to serving the Riverdale community.”