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  • Writer's pictureIşıl Tanyeri

"Soul of the Game" takes over Venice Beach

Updated: Aug 29, 2020

As I sit in my apartment in Brooklyn trying to get my thoughts around what we experienced this weekend while also trying to decompress, I’m overwhelmed with thoughts and emotions. I have more to say than Instagram would allow me, so I had to write the full post on my blog and share bits and pieces of it on a post.

For those of you who may not know, for about a year, I’ve been working alongside the legend DK to plan a historic 3x3 wheelchair basketball tournament in SoCal. From the start, our approach was different: pick a gorgeous and iconic venue in SoCal, spend $$ on marketing and branding, create a festival-like vibe, make it look professional and sexy. The stakes were high and the challenges we faced were sometimes hard to overcome. Planning such a big event is one thing, but to plan it from the other side of the country with only 2 full-time dedicated people with limited resources proved extremely difficult. However, overtime, we were blessed to receive the support and help from many friends, family and key partners who gave us the mental strength for the final push through.

In the rare moments that i got to take a step back to see the full picture throughout the weekend, I realized that the impact of DK3 went beyond our tight wheelchair basketball community and influenced the local community and everyone watching and following us on social media. Yes, including the crazy streaker!

Those who were coming to play their usual pick up games on the courts were surprised and overwhelmed by the talent who took over, and they instead respectfully sat on the bleachers with their phones out to capture what they were witnessing. How many of them had ever seen wheelchair basketball played live before? Yet alone, in Venice Beach? With Hundreds of new people exposed to a very high level of wheelchair basketball in an iconic venue with a professional DJ, with the one and only MC Mouthpiece, a video production team, and loooots of social media shares, I know that this weekend we made at least one person go home smiling and feeling inspired because of what they saw. Perhaps those same people will go and tell others about what they saw, too. And that is how we will advance and grow the Paralympic Movement: with one smiling person at a time and telling others about the power of adaptive sports.

I got to meet parents whose son is in the Marine and they felt overwhelmed as they snapped pics of the talented veteran players on their phones to share with their son later. Even a phenomenon of Venice Beach, Mouthpiece showed up 2 days in a row because he was inspired by the mission and story of our veterans and their athletic talent. 

To me, what was so incredibly important to achieve with this event was the increased exposure of wheelchair basketball and the players. I wanted our players to know that what they do matters and the countless hours of practice and travels matter. With DK’s vision and passion for the game, I think that we achieved  that this weekend. I saw many smiling faces watch the 3x3 play in awe, could ‘t possibly believe that the speed and talent they were witnessing. Perhaps for the first tine they changed their perspective on an adaptive athlete.  Perhaps, for the first time they saw a basketball player more so than a man or a woman in a wheelchair. To me, that's the power of this sport and the definition of success. There are so many people to thank and to be grateful for: First and foremost, I want to thank DK for allowing me to be part of his crazy dreams and letting me share some of mine, too. It was an honor to be a part of this event and I am forever grateful for the opportunity. Thank you to the extremely hardworking group of volunteer friends, to our key partners including, Angel City Games, PER4MAX, Venice Ball League, Vital Proteins and Hotwel Erwin, the generous staff at Pickled Pellet Heads, our awesome and talented music provider, DJ Kelci Newman and singer & songwriter, Phoebe Ryan, to all the Kileys and the Ryans and everyone who came out to support us.

Finally, I want to thank my partner in crime and my personal volunteer hero, Zach for putting in more work than he was probably ready for and helping us run our event with his positive and charming spirit, without complaining once.

Though my body is sore today, My heart is full of joy and pride. I know the event was overall a success and it was all because of everyone who played a much bigger role than they realize. I want to sincerely thank everyone for sharing your honest feedback and kind words with me as well. It means a lot to us and I mean it. 

See you next year Venice Beach! 

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