The performers on the Harlem Ambassadors are financially compensated for their participation in the show performances and assembly presentations. But from my viewpoint of being in the pro sports and entertainment business for 35 years, receiving money isn't what makes you a professional.
Being a professional certainly includes the component of playing for pay. But the concept of professionalism, in show basketball or any endeavor, is so much more than that. Professionalism is an attitude, an approach to taking care of business that lets everyone know that you are the right person for the job. Professionals approach their craft as a development opportunity.
A professional understands that you don't start at the top. A professional seeks the guidance and wisdom of those with more experience and looks to grow. A professional never stops growing, reaching, and striving to improve. A professional undertakes any task required and completes it to the best of his or her ability. If it is your responsibility to do the laundry, you finish the washing as early as possible to permit adequate drying time. Having dirty uniforms or damp clean ones is not professional.
A professional maintains responsibility for being in the best physical condition to perform. In the case of show basketball, being professional means a performer takes care of his/her body with stretching, icing, or whirlpool treatments in preparation to be their very best for the next performance. A professional is accountable for any tools needed to perform. In the case of a show basketball performer crossing international borders, having a valid passport and knowing where it is located is a vitally important tool. Losing a passport is so unprofessional.
Choosing to be a professional means that you are a man or woman of your word. If you say that you have a driver's license, you have one. If you commit to following tour rules required of a Harlem Ambassadors performer, you don't pick and choose which guidelines apply to you and which don't.
I remember hearing a story about a reviewer who saw an up-and-coming Sonny and Cher perform in front of a dozen people in a club. The reviewer noted that these singers put as much into entertaining those 12 customers as they later would before audiences of 12,000. The reviewer said that's when he knew Sonny and Cher were destined for big things. That's the definition of professional. Giving each audience your very best and realizing that the show must go on.
Why the emphasis on professionalism? Because frankly, I found that we didn't have enough of it among the Fall 2014 tour performers. Would I know? Yes, after 17 years with Harlem Ambassadors, I know professional attitudes when I see them. Those are the professional people that have made the most of their opportunity with us. Those are the performers who have taken the Harlem Ambassadors' experience and have used it as a launching pad to professional success after basketball performing days are over. Harlem Ambassadors has helped these professionally-minded persons to become leaders, pastors, coaches, school administrators, teachers, and great parents.
We've retooled for the Spring 2015 tour with a group of fresh, positive performers anxious to grow as professionals. You're going to hear great things about announcer "King Arthur" Berwick, Dunkin' Dustin Baxter, Patric Massey, Dayon Hall-Jones, Chelsey Davis, Kevin Gray, and Michael Wilkes. Encourage them when they come to your town, lift them up in your prayers, as they work to be the best Harlem Ambassadors' performers that they can be.