Charlotte Pearson talks to a Brighton teenager about how basketball changed his life.
Sport has a way of helping people through difficult times, be it running to clear your head or swimming to blow away those cobwebs.
For 18-year-old Ira Perrier his escape was basketball.
“It made me ecstatic,” he smiles.
“Every time I set foot on a court with just me, a ball and the hoop my smile would not disappear, nothing else mattered.
“Basketball opened a huge number of doors for me, introduced me to incredible personalities and people, and moulded my identity as if it was another parent.”
Ira and his sister were raised by his mother, but he adds that basketball gave him a number of role models and his main influence came from European pro Cory McGee who he says became his first real father figure.
He says of his relationship with Cory: “I grew up without a man, without a direct role model and without a person to call dad.
“At first he taught me small, significant, and specific skills through basketball,” recalls Ira.
“Soon enough, our relationship went from player-coach to father-son, and he taught me about the world.
“In all honesty, he made me...me. He took the once insecure, weak, saddened boy, and made a man.
“He pushed me to excel in every aspect of my life, especially basketball.”
Ira’s passion for the sport saw him keen to progress to play in America and had it not been for his mother nominating him for an Edward Starr award this may never have come true.
“The Starr Trust has provided me with several sponsorships which make me able to continue to play the game,” he says.
“Without them my mother wouldn’t have been able to afford the petrol money to travel to practice or cover the costs of the camps that I play at.
“They made everything so much easier on my family and I couldn’t be more grateful.”
Ira has since won two scholarships, and won a place at an American high school in Florida where he is an A student with consistently great grades.
On top of that, this year he was voted citizen of the year and prom king.
“Florida is hot,” he laughs. “The lifestyle here is amazing and the culture is so different.
“The basketball is much more intense and challenging.
“Everybody is so serious about their sports, especially basketball and football.”
And what advice would Ira give someone who is passionate about something but may have obstacles?
“Ask for help,” he enthuses.
“If you never ask you may not ever get any. There are so many people willing to assist you to achieve your dreams.
“Also make sure you apply to the Starr Trust if you live in the BN postcode as they will do their best to welcome everybody with open arms.”
Basketball started as something to fill a gap in his life but has grown to some much more and Ira is keen to share what he has learned.
“I enjoy coaching because I love being able to share my knowledge of the game with people who are determined to get better and improve,” he explains.
“Also, after so many people helped and influenced me to play, I want to give back and help as many people as I can improve at the game of basketball.
“However, with the hands-on experience I have it’s different to that of many coaches so maybe my passion will make me a role model.”
The Starr Trust, based in Hove, champions young people, aged 10 to 18 to be the best they can be.
It gives out grants of up to £5,000 to help them fulfil their potential through sports, arts or education.
The charity believes in a world in which young people are supported to achieve their fullest potential; where they flourish as individuals while making a positive contribution to their community.
Its aim is to help as many young people as it can living within the BN postcode.
It was founded in 2008 in memory of Edward Starr.
“Edward was an inspiration to everyone he met. Someone who always had a smile and a kind word and someone who made you feel like you could accomplish anything. The Starr Trust was set up as a way of carrying on the legacy he left behind, a legacy of inspiring people to be the best that they can be.”
For more information on the charity, visit starrtrust.com
For more stories like this visit www.etcmag.net