Tag Archives: Phoenix Suns

Nominations open for Spirit of Cotton Award

Do you know a high school basketball coach who consistently demonstrates the best qualities of coach, educator, mentor and community leader?

For the seventh year, Phoenix Suns Charities will recognize an extraordinary coach with The Spirit of Cotton Award honoring the memory of former Suns head coach Cotton Fitzsimmons.

All high school head basketball coaches in Arizona are eligible to be nominated. Nominations can be made by a community member, fellow coach/teacher, school administrator or student-athlete.

The Spirit of Cotton Award winner will receive a commemorative plaque and ring and a Phoenix Suns Charities grant of $10,000 for use in the school’s athletic programs.

Nominations are being accepted through March 9. The winner will be announced and honored at the Suns regular season finale against the San Antonio Spurs on April 25.

Previous Spirit of Cotton Award recipients include Byron Maynes of Salome High School in Salome (2011) David Lopez of St. Mary’s High School in Phoenix (2010), Howard Mueller of Phoenix Greenway High School (2009), Karen Self of Seton Catholic High School in Chandler (2008) and Gary Ernst of Mesa Mountain View High School (2007).

Cotton Fitzsimmons. Photo courtesy of the NBA.

Fitzsimmons, who died in July 2004, had been an integral part of the franchise since 1970, with his first of three stints as the team’s head coach. He returned to the Suns in 1987 as director of player personnel. In 1988-89, Fitzsimmons added coaching to his duties with the Suns and engineered what, at the time, was the third-biggest one-season turnaround in NBA history, converting the Suns from a 28-win non-playoff team to a 55-win team that advanced to the 1989 Western Conference Finals.

Over a 20-year NBA coaching career, Fitzsimmons won 832 games with four different franchises. He was twice honored as NBA Coach of the Year (1979 with Kansas City, 1989 with the Suns).

For more information on The Spirit of Cotton Award, or to download a nomination form, please visit SunsCharities.org.

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Phoenix Suns form new Suns Kids Dance Team

The Phoenix Suns are forming a new Suns Kids’ Dance Team that will perform as part of the Suns’ high-energy game entertainment. Auditions will be held on the main court of US Airways Center on Saturday, Nov. 19 with registration beginning at noon.

The Phoenix Suns Kids’ Dance Team will be comprised of high-energy, trained dancers between the ages of 6 and 12 who are enthusiastic about the Phoenix Suns and performing in front of large crowds.

The team will perform at a minimum of one Phoenix Suns home game a month, interact with fans and have the opportunity to dance with other Suns entertainment groups.

For more details, contact Kip Helt via email at khelt@suns.com or by phone at 602-379-7951.

Phoenix Suns are recruiting Ball Kids

The Phoenix Suns will hold interviews this month for kids age 16 and older who want to be Suns Ball Kids during the 2011-12 season.

Registration will be held at US Airways Center at 5:30pm on Wednesday, Oct. 12.

Ball Kids are on the court rebounding for the players as the team warms up prior to games and at halftime. They are also responsible for wiping down the court after any player takes a fall during the game.

Ball Kids must be highly motivated, willing to work hard and able to attend all Suns home games during the 2011-12 season. Interviewees should bring a resume. Parking is available in the US Airways Center garage, located on the west side of the arena (on First Street just south of Jefferson), at no charge.

For more information, contact Shaun Stanhibel at 602-379-7652 or visit suns.com.

Grant Hill announced as spokesman for the arts

Grant Hill has an eye on the future. “In my world, competition is fierce on and off the court,” the Phoenix Suns forward says in a new public service announcement. “It’s more important than ever to prepare the next generation to face challenges head on.”

Hill believes exposure to the arts is significant to that preparation. That’s why he signed on to be campaign spokesperson for The Choice is Art, a four-year statewide campaign by the Arizona Commission on the Arts to promote access to arts education.

In his first PSA for the program, Hill describes the positive effects that the arts bring: “The arts teach skills like discipline, dedication and teamwork. And for kids struggling with academic, social or family challenges, the arts can change lives.”

Hill is no stranger to the arts; he and his wife, Grammy-nominated singer Tamia Hill have been longtime patrons. In fact, their 46-pierce collection of African-American art went on tour as the Something All Our Own: The Grant Hill Collection of African American Art exhibition from 2003-2006. The collection featured several major works from acclaimed artists Romare Bearden, Elizabeth Catlett, Hughie Lee Smith and John Biggers.

“From a young age, my father instilled in me a respect for well-crafted and historically significant artifacts and works of art,” Hill writes in a letter of support for the campaign. “He took me to museums and taught me to appreciate the energetic vision of artists, especially African-American artists. This family tradition of collecting is another reason I continue to acquire impactful works of art. Now, as a father myself, I recognize the value of passing this appreciation on to my two children. They have a natural affinity for creative works, and it is inspiring to see them make their own artistic discoveries.”

A veteran of the NBA, Hill graduated from Duke University in 1994 and became one of the best all-around players in the league at that time, sharing Rookie of the Year Award honors with Jason Kidd. After being plagued with injuries throughout the prime of his career, Hill came to Phoenix in 2007 and joined Steve Nash as a team captain. He won his first career playoff series victory in 2010, when the Suns swept the San Antonio Spurs in the Western Conference Semifinals, and averaged 13.2 points per game in the 2010-11 season. — Robert T. Balint


Listen to RAK’s 2008 interview with Grant Hill.

RAK Archives
Read about Hill’s experiences juggling minutes on the court and quality time with his two little girls, Myla and Lael.

Hill also promotes healthy, active lifestyles for kids. In January, we wrote about his involvement with the Kids Sports Stars healthy lifestyle challenge.


Grant Hill’s thoughts on fatherhood, from a Father’s Day interview in 2008.

Coming together as a team

In the minutes before the start of Tuesday night’s state high school semifinal girls lacrosse game, the Chaparral Firebirds circled around their coach to hear some final words of strategy and encouragement. After head coach Jessica Livingston said a few words, the Firebirds held their sticks above their heads as team captains Makenna Pohle and Alexa Sarussi led them in a traditional pregame cheer, “Red Hot,” by yelling out the following question:

Chaparral Captains Makenna Pohle (l) and Alexa Sarussi (r) lead their team in the cheer "Red Hot."

“Our team is what?”

The rest of the team responds – “RED HOT!”

Our team is what? RED HOT!

Then all the players shout in unison, without seeming to inhale: “Our team is R-E-D RED H-O-T HOT. Once we start, we can’t be stopped! All right!”

After a split-second pause, Pohle and Sarussi then yell to their red-and-black-uniformed teammates, “When I say Red, you say Black!

“Red!” “Black!”

“Red!” “Black!”

“When I say Fire, you say Birds!”

“Fire!” “Birds!”

“Fire!” “Birds!”

The team then concludes in unison, “Goooooo Firebirds!” before breaking the circle and trotting onto the field to start the game.

“‘Red Hot’ is our ultimate pump-up cheer,” says Livingston. “We use this cheer before we go out on the field.  It brings us together as a team, unites us as one, and gets us focused and pumped before we take the field. Our captains lead the cheer with pride, and in essence their leading the cheer symbolizes their contribution of leading our team all year.  We’ve been doing this cheer for quite some time and the longevity of the cheer shows its importance to the team because it’s not just a cheer, it’s a Chaparral tradition.”

The Xavier College Prep Gators have their own pregame cheer, charmingly titled, “Blood and Pain.” Like the Chaparral cheer, the Xavier cheer starts with two players posing a question to the rest of the team, which is huddled around them.

“Who’s gonna bring that blood and pain?”

What????

“I said…Who’s gonna bring that blood and pain?

GATORS!  Ahhhh, OOOH!”

Xavier's Arden Anderson seeks to score against Horizon in an April 30 game.

 

So what do these cheers accomplish?

“Xavier’s pregame cheer, ‘Blood and Pain’ serves several purposes,” says coach Caitlin Bebout. “First and foremost, it unites the girls. They all come together in a close huddle with their arms wrapped behind their teammates’ backs. This signifies how they will work together as a team from the very start of the game. Next, the cheer gets them pumped up for the game. Taken partially from the Phoenix Suns’ pregame warm-up, their huddle starts to sway back and forth as they build up their energy. I’m sure on some level, it’s also used to intimidate their competition, but the ultimate goal of this pregame cheer is to unite the players and get them excited for the game.”

Pregame cheers are not just for girls.  Perhaps the world’s most famous pregame cheer is done by New Zealand’s national rugby team, the All Blacks.  Since 1888, the All Blacks have performed a traditional Maori ceremonial dance called the “Haka” before every game. Until six years ago, the All Blacks did the Ka Mate, which was composed by a Maori chief in the early 1800s.

In 2005, a new Haka, the Kapa O Pango, was written for the All Blacks.  The composer of the new Haka, Derek Lardelli, has said that its purpose is “about building spiritual, physical and intellectual capacity prior to doing something very important.” Lardelli added, “It’s about building the person’s confidence inwardly, their spiritual side, and then making that spiritual side connect through the soul and coming out through the eyes and the gestures and the hands. So it’s a preparation of your physical side as well as your spiritual side.”

Nor are male pregame cheers confined to New Zealand. Locally, the Mesa High School football team does their own haka before each game.

So how effective was “Red Hot” for the Firebirds in Tuesday’s semifinal game? Pretty effective, it seems.  After leading her teammates in the cheer, Makenna Pohle scored the first of her five goals of the evening less than a minute into the game and helped lead the Firebirds to a 20-13 victory over Pinnacle High School.

After the Firebirds lined up to shake hands with the Pinnacle players, they walked to the center of the field, laid down their sticks, put their arms around each other and formed a circle, swaying back and forth to do their postgame cheer, which starts in a whisper.

“C-H-S

A little bit louder now

C-H-S

I still can’t hear you…

C-H-S

What, what?

L-A-X

A little bit louder now

L-A-X

I still can’t hear you…

L-A-X

What, what?”

So with the game over, what is the purpose of a postgame cheer? Coach Livingston explains.

“This brings us together as a team at the end,” Livingston says. “We either win or lose as a team and not as individuals. Coming together as one at the end of the game reminds us of this. No matter how great or how frustrating the game may have been, we have shared the emotion together. It’s really not even about winning or losing, instead it’s about being a family. We leave it all on the field and since we are in a circle for this cheer, we can look into each other’s eyes and it brings us back to what’s most important — each other.”

Makenna Pohle, Alexa Sarussi and the other Chaparral seniors will do “Red Hot” one last time this Friday night, when they face the Horizon Huskies for the state title at 8 p.m. on Field 16 at the Reach 11 Sports Complex, 2425 East Deer Valley Rd., in Phoenix.  It will be a rematch of last year’s state title game, which Chaparral won 21-4.  This year, however, Horizon, which easily prevailed over Corona del Sol 21-8 in Tuesday’s other semifinal game, enters the championship game as the number one seed, while Chaparral is the ranked second in the state.

While Friday night’s championship game promises to be highly competitive, with its result in doubt until the end, there little doubt that for the seniors, Friday night’s team cheers will carry a little extra energy and emotion. — Dan Barr

Postscript — On May 13, Chaparral won the state championship in a highly competitive game, defeating Horizon 14-13 in overtime.  To read more about that game, click here.

Grant Hill to honor all-stars in Kids Sports Stars lifestyle challenge

Phoenix Suns forward Grant Hill.

Tomorrow, Phoenix Suns forward Grant Hill will recognize more than 180 students from across the Valley who successfully completed the Kids Sports Stars healthy lifestyle challenge. The event will take place at US Airways Center at 5:30 p.m.

More than 1,000 students participated in the 12-week challenge. All-stars logged 26 miles, tracked eating habits and write essays about healthy living.

Hill will meet with the all-stars and describe his own fitness routine along with sharing tips for maintaining a healthy lifestyle. The Gorilla and Verve Sol Patrol will be on hand to take photos and perform for the students.

Kids Sports Stars is a non-profit organization founded to encourage young people to adopt healthy lifestyles. The non competitive, fun activities developed by Kids Sports Stars and partners have involved more than 10,000 kids across the Valley in the last seven years and operated in 17 Phoenix area elementary schools. Learn more.

A Team Assist for high school basketball programs

Suns guard Steve Nash signs a basketball for a fan.

The Phoenix Suns and Qwest Communications have partnered to launch the Second Annual “Team Assist” program, a community-outreach initiative designed to provide new basketball equipment to two Arizona high school varsity basketball programs.

Players, coaches, teachers or parents throughout Arizona can nominate their teams at suns.com/assist. Entry forms must be submitted by Sunday, Nov. 21 and will be judged on their school’s need for new equipment. Submissions can include digital photos and/or videos to help illustrate need. Applicants are asked how having the new equipment would improve their team’s performance.

Judges clearly are looking for community-minded teams; the form also asks applicants if team members do any volunteer work outside of school and basketball.

Two high schools will be selected to receive $5,000 donations from Qwest to purchase the equipment described in their proposals. The donations will be distributed evenly between the boys’ and girls’ programs at each high school.

The Suns will host both high school basketball programs at a Suns home game during the 2010-11 season.