I Work For T-Shirts

Every April my colleague and friend Joe Forstot calls to ask if I will do volunteer physicals for Boca Hoops and I always say “yes”.   Dr Forstot is a rheumatologist by trade, but to me he has been a senior resident and teacher when I was an intern, a mentor and now, the preceptor and teacher for my niece, a second year medical student. Most of all he is my good friend.   I am always intrigued by physicians who find a way to help others outside their normal professional role.  Dr Forstot is one of those individuals.

Twenty four years ago, his younger son, a wonderful basketball player and fan was cut from the school basketball roster on the final day of tryouts.  There were no alternatives. Boca Raton, Florida was a sleepy college town with one indoor basketball court inside the city’s oldest elementary school. The local universities and colleges still did not have an indoor facility and there were certainly few, if any, youth leagues.  Out of necessity, Dr Forstot and his friend Mike Doyle, a Broward County public school teacher, started Boca Hoops.

Everything about Boca Hoops was done correctly for all of the right reasons. Teams were formed by random selection after open tryouts were used to rank the childrens’ abilities. Teams were constructed for parity purposes.  Every child had to play the same amount of time in a rotation system for the first thirty minutes of a 32 minute running time game. Since there were not enough girls to start a girl’s league immediately, most teams were co-ed.  Sportsmanship, having fun and learning the game were the goals of the program.

To finance the costs, the organizers sought sponsors for teams and advertising banners. They came up with the idea of requiring a pre-participation physical exam and charging a fee for it. The fee from the physicals went to offset league expenses. Community physicians were asked to volunteer their time and perform the benchmarking physicals on participants.  In the first few years I was a sponsor of a team, a coach of a team and a volunteer physician.

The physicals were fairly basic discussing vaccinations and immunizations, age appropriate growth landmarks and some screening for cardiovascular diseases and congenital orthopedic problems. Inflation over the last 23 years has driven the cost of the physical from the original $5 to this year’s cost of $25.

From a physician’s viewpoint, we have moved from an elementary school cafeteria where we sat in little chairs and worked at little desks, to a high school teacher’s lounge where the chairs are kinder and gentler to our aching backs. The patients are still young and enthusiastic. The parents are still warm and appreciative. It’s a great opportunity to meet the young parents and children of the community and learn about what is going on in their schools and lives.

The league has grown over the last 23 years. It now encompasses almost a thousand players with separate boys and girls leagues.  There is a travelling competitive program for boys and girls plus three modestly priced summer instructional day camps. They play at indoor facilities at the local public and private schools as well as universities and city parks.  The shining jewel of the program is probably the High Five Division created for special needs children to learn the game and have a chance to play and have fun.

I have continued to sponsor a team each year since my children moved on to college and adult life. Many of the coaches in the pictures on the plaques I receive of my team either played for me as children or on opposing teams. Their children are now old enough to play in Boca Hoops.

I am running out of room on my office walls to hang all the team photos from my many years of sponsorship. The true prize of participation however is my Boca Hoops “Doc” T- shirt presented annually to each physician who volunteers. Over the years, the shirts have evolved from a plain blue t-shirt to a collared golf type shirt with a unique logo for Boca Hoops. The name “Doc” is printed on the front pocket.

I work for T shirts.