ATLANTA - More than 1,000 kids across Georgia will have a special surprise in their mailboxes next week.
The Atlanta Hawks are mailing out 1,700 basketball kits across the state; 500 are going to Boys and Girls Clubs in Atlanta, Albany, Augusta and Columbus, and the 1,200 others are for pre-registered children, from 6 years old to high school age, who would be partaking in the team's traditional clinics, tournaments and camps this summer.
The "Hawks at Home" program was the Hawks' safer-at-home approach to keeping kids engaged physically and mentally during a tough time using basketball.
"It’s different. No one’s used to being locked in and staying home, and we’re all adjusting on a day-to-day basis," Jon Babul, Atlanta Hawks Vice President of Basketball Development, told FOX 5. "And I think what makes me feel good, and watching my children, what makes them feel good, is that little bit of time during the day where we get out and we’re active and we’re running around and having fun and laughing."
The Hawks would normally be conducting 12 camps in eight weeks, Monday through Thursday 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. The first full week was planned for Monday, June 1.
"Talking to our staff internally, it was just like, ‘What can we do to help families around Atlanta and youth to have an opportunity to stay engaged?’ You can’t make the assumption that everyone has a basketball, so we were like, let’s definitely send basketballs out and pumps," Babul said. "The workouts we have, you can do them in a confined space. You don’t need much. So with a ball and some instruction, a child can engage us at any time during the day."
Hawks Basketball Academy Director Chris Jacobs teaches an online ball-handling drill for "Hawks at Home." (Atlanta Hawks)
Using a virtual format, "Hawks at Home" will offer one - to two-minute of different basketball drills and instruction, live or pre-recorded fitness classes like yoga and coloring books for younger kids. They've even partnered with the Children’s Museum of Atlanta for STEM learning components like science of basketball.
"Come in and tune in and work on your dribbling for 20 minutes. Have at it. If you want to come in and work on some science in basketball and some STEM education, you can do that," Babul said. "So I think the flexibility of it and the amount of content and the amount of instruction we can provide virtually is the silver lining. We can do so much more."
In addition, although they plan to at least continue the program into Labor Day, Babul said the online format allows them to work with kids across the state, all summer long and beyond. And with an open-ended NBA schedule, Hawks players and coaches have jumped in on "Hawks at Home."
Forward John Collins just did a live class with 75 kids, ages 6 to 15, with Big Brother Big Sister of Atlanta online. Some of the coaching staff has pre-recorded instructional sessions for the program, and don't be surprised if the head coach drops in for a session at some point.
Hawks assistant coach Marlon Garnett teaches an online dribbling drill for "Hawks at Home." (Atlanta Hawks)
"That content will be online, so an 8-year-old from Dunwoody, Georgia, can tune in and actually be receiving coaching and tips from the head coach of the Atlanta Hawks, Lloyd Pierce," Babul said. "Like how cool is that? That would never happen in a typical summer."
For those interested in registering their children for the program, head to hawks.com/hawksathome.