Basketball and beyond: new FAAM president talks about the importance of mentors for high school students

The new FAAM president first became involved with the high 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 someone 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 differently. And he said, ‘Hey, why don’t you come play basketball with my team?’”

That approach, Brown recalled, encouraged him to come out. And he’s been involved with the non-profit, formerly 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: Photo provided

Once Brown started as an assistant coach for FAAM, he said he realized there are many life skills you can teach through basketball. Whether it’s hard work, being a good teammate, or being in situations you can’t control and learning to control yourself, Brown said he saw the importance of mentoring men like him for high school attendees.

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 the NorthShore University HealthSystem, is this year adding a new role to his roster, taking on the role of 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 high school students is on the cusp of a transformation, and he’s looking forward to leading the organization through it. His first meeting as the new FAAM president was on July 21.

FAAM was founded in 1968 to fill a gap in extracurricular programs and has since built its reputation using basketball to teach life lessons. Members of the local black community volunteer each year to lead and mentor basketball and cheerleading teams. Last year, FAAM added 14 boys’ basketball teams and six girls’ basketball teams.

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