Whittier Elementary children sitting cross-legged on the gym floor waited anxiously Wednesday for the presenter to appear. Suddenly, Derick “Dizzy” Grant stepped around the curtain dressed in a blue and red track suit, with a broad smile lighting his face and a basketball spinning on the tip of his finger.
Grant, who has been a member of the Harlem Globetrotters team for the past eight years, went to Whittier to give the children a presentation on bullying and teach them a few ball-handling skills. Steve Nash, a first-grade teacher at Whittier, entered the school in a Globetrotters contest online, and the school was selected as one of the lucky winners to receive a visit.
Grant started with a clapping game that helped the children listen. He called out a series of “One Clap! Two Claps! One Clap! Three Claps!” before yelling “Half Clap!” -- drawing laughs from the kids as they tried to follow along.
They also played a guessing game to teach the history of the Harlem Globetrotters. The kids learned that the team formed in Chicago in 1926. Over the past 88 years, the Globetrotters have traveled to 121 countries. Grant has joined them in 70 international locations.
Asking for help from the audience, Grant outlined the “ABCs of Bullying Prevention,” a presentation designed by the Globetrotters in support of the National Campaign to Stop Violence.
“‘A’ stands for Action,” Grant told the children. He asked for kids to define what action is and selected one of them to come up front and form an “A” with his hands.
Action is when “you’re doing the right thing,” Grant said. “You’re being responsible and you’re putting an end to a bad situation when you go and tell an adult.”
The children raised their hands to define “Bravery,” and Grant showed a student how to form a “B” with her arms and legs. He told the story of when he was bullied in the second grade. “Everybody just sat around and watched me get picked on, the thing that bothered me most was that no one stuck up for me,” he said.
The final element was “Compassion.” The student who defined it was so excited that he ran up and made a “C” before Grant had even finished speaking.
“Sometimes you guys pick on each other and don’t even realize you’re doing it,” said Grant. “You need to ask the question, ‘How would I feel if that was me?’”
Grant selected another student and a teacher to join the three already in the center of the room. He told the kids that at the start of every Globetrotters game, “there is something very, very special that takes place. It’s called the ‘Magic Circle,’” he said, a place where players show off ball-handling tricks.
“I’m going to teach these five to make a Magic Circle in less than five minutes,” said Grant.
He taught each of the participants how to move the ball through their legs before creatively passing to another circle member using their fist, knee or head. Grant showed off some of his own skills by spinning the ball along his arms, neck and the top of his head. The audience cheered him on enthusiastically.
He turned on some music and the “Magic Circle” displayed their new talent. Grant went over the ABCs once more and told the kids about the Globetrotters playing at the Brick Breeden Fieldhouse on Saturday.
Grant concluded by stating the purpose of the presentation. “Hopefully we can put an end to bullying in your school,” he said.
Kaitlyn Nicholas can be reached at email@example.com or 582-2680.