by Tammy Showalter, Freelance Writer

 Teams on Hold during Pandemic

Great Mills head Basketball coach Jeff Burrell, and founder of Basketball 4 L.Y.F.E. [Love, Youth, Family, and Education] said one of his goals is to see the rising basketball players in St. Mary’s County and especially at Great Mills believe in themselves first and foremost, but not at the cost of getting sick because of the Novel Coronavirus or COVID-19.

Burrell went to Facebook to reach his team and encourage Great Mills parents, posting that the exposure from playing in AAU tournaments this summer with different teams or switching public schools to go to college may not be all it’s cracked up to be.

He wanted to get the message out that it’s too risky right now to be playing on a basketball team right now this summer.

He said, “Parents, you control your child’s future, not the coach. Don’t let them [coaches] lie to you. Your child’s life isn’t worth playing in that type of environment [pressure and COVID-19].

“Can you imagine hearing your kid was ‘exposed’ to COVID while playing in a tournament that gives them ‘exposure’ to colleges? If your kid is good, their talent will show. Colleges will find them and you don’t have to run chasing false promises.”

“We have the Southern Maryland Athletic Conference that we abide by but then you have coaches that will tell a kid to come to play for them to get the exposure and that’s not necessarily true.” Burrell said, “My goal is to build Great Mills up. My influence may reach farther than building a basketball team. We have a system in place to support them with academics.”

Burrell said he has had student-athletes come to him for emotional support during this pivotal time in our history as we also maneuver through the racial divide in our country.

“Great Mills is so different from any other school in St. Mary’s in that we are more diverse,” Burrell said. “We have a cool blend of everything; we have a Hispanic population, Indian, African-American, White, Chinese; rich and poor. We have it all and it’s such a cool blend.”

Burrell said once things are up and running, he plans to continue his basketball outreach through Basketball 4 L.Y.F.E. with supportive volunteers, coaches, and military personnel to improve the quality of living in our community.

“We have successful basketball programs here in St. Mary’s County and I don’t want our parents to forget that. We’re in the planning stages now [as we go through COVID], and once this pandemic is over, we will unveil a plan to support our local businesses and continue to prosper in the community.”

“I also want people to know that my man Jake [Heibel] deserved that nomination for Principal of the Year award,” Burrell said.

Heibel was nominated by the Washington Post for St. Mary’s County Public Schools to its Principal of the year program, along with 18 other finalists. Heibel has been employed with St. Mary’s County for 28 years, nine of those as a Principal. Jesse Kraft of Fairfax County was named the Washington Post overall 1999-2020 Principal of the year.