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Basketball and beyond: New FAAM President talks importance of mentors for middle schoolers

FAAM’s new President first became involved with the middle school basketball league 17 years ago as an assistant coach. But Omar Brown said that connection almost didn’t happen – when a FAAM volunteer coach first asked him to help with a team, he initially said no.

“I told him, ‘I don’t want to be around somebody else’s kids.’ Like, I just couldn’t imagine what it was like,” Brown said.

“And he asked me again, and he framed it a little bit differently. And he said, ‘Hey, why don’t you just come to play basketball with my team?’”

That approach, Brown recalled, encouraged him to show up. And he’s been involved with the nonprofit, formally the Fellowship of Afro-American Men, ever since.

Omar Brown is the Senior Vice President of People and Culture for the Big 10 Conference, and the new President of the FAAM organization. Credit: provided photo

Once Brown started as a FAAM assistant coach, he said he realized that there are a lot of life skills you can teach through basketball. Whether it’s hard work, being a good teammate or being in situations that you can’t control and learn how to control yourself, Brown said he saw the importance of the mentorship of men like himself for the middle school participants.

Brown, 47, a longtime Evanstonian who has served on the boards of several local organizations, including the Youth Job Center, YOU, the McGraw YMCA, and NorthShore University HealthSystem, this year is adding a new role to his list, taking over as President of FAAM.

FAAM game ball. Last year the organization included 14 teams for boys and six for girls. Credit: Teel Miller/FAAM

According to Brown, the 54-year-old basketball and cheerleading program for middle schoolers is at the cusp of a transformation, and he’s eager to lead the organization through it. His first meeting with him as FAAM’s new President was on July 21.

FAAM was founded in 1968 to fill a gap needed for after-school programs, and since then, it’s built it’s reputation around using basketball to teach life lessons. Local Black community members volunteer each year to lead and mentor basketball and cheerleading teams. Last year FAAM included 14 basketball teams for boys and six for girls.

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