“If you're a part of a team, then you're a part of a family.”
Mike Meyers, Commissioner of the Military Basketball Association, has dedicated his career to advancing that message, and it all started with his personal love for basketball. In 1997, Meyers started his coaching career and had a couple of successful years before joining the United States Military in 1999. Even though he wasn’t coaching, basketball still remained an outlet for Meyes and would eventually help him through some difficult times.
In 2007, Meyers was deployed to Iraq — his particular unit was on the front lines of the surge — and witnessed things he said he’ll truly never forget. Meyers explained that to this day, his deployment was equally the greatest and the most traumatic time of his life. That’s when he turned to basketball for help.
“When I came back [from that deployment], I was not able to process and readjust in society the way I should,” Meyers said. “For five years, I bottled all that up. I never talked about it. I never spoke about it. Then one day, I just decided to start coaching basketball at Fort Riley. Coaching basketball was a way to connect and a way to keep me grounded to do some of the things I needed to do as I continued to serve.”
Thus the creation of the Military Basketball Association, (MBA). Officially formed in 2017, Meyers and the MBA plan, coordinate, and execute varsity-level basketball to directly support military athletes and veterans with their resiliency, spiritual fitness, and social wellness, around the world.
That year, the MBA held its first tournament in Colorado Springs at Fountain-Fort Carson with 16 teams competing from around the country. Meyers said of that first tournament that it was a blessing to have the opportunity to serve people in need with the goal of spreading resiliency through sports, which was his vision all along.
“[The MBA’s] vision is to partner with military communities, any community for that matter, to promote awareness of post-traumatic stress injuries, and also suicide prevention,” Meyers said. “We believe doing that and partnering with communities, businesses, and organizations, we'll be able to change the stigma when it comes to veterans' behavioral health.”
After four years of success, Meyers moved the tournament to Wichita, Kansas, where the MBA will host the 2023 Championship Finals. This 24-installation teams event, in collaboration with Paramount Veterans Network, will take place on May 26-28. Meyers said the MBA would not be where it is without the coaches and players that support it.
“These are some incredible athletes and some incredible coaches that volunteer out of their own time, sometimes sacrificing their own finances, to help as a preventative measure for some of the harmful behaviors we see in the veteran community,” Meyers said. “Sports is what connects us. That's what I'm really proud of. It's why the MBA was created. If you're part of a team, you're part of a family. That’s our mantra, ‘Life through basketball’.”
For more information on the MBA and how you can watch the Championship Finals, visit the website here.
Photo credit(s): Courtesy of Mike Meyers