Michigan, USA - The cold winter months in Michigan may keep some Chaldeans indoor and lazily lounging around. That is not the case for over two hundred Chaldeans that gathered at the Salter Gymnasium in Royal Oak, Michigan. The large group of Chaldean men and women came out in large numbers for the first of three open sessions for the Chaldean under 18 open basketball tournament.
The tournament organized and hosted by the Chaldean Church Sports League (CCSL) of Michigan returns after financing a very successful flag football and volleyball youth tournament. This year the CCSL brings the Chaldean community both boys and girls basketball for both Chaldean boys and girls age 11-14 and 15 -18.
The CCSL hold their next tryouts this Sunday, January 13 at 2:30 p.m. at the Slater Gymnasium located at 10 and half and Campbell in Royal Oak, Michigan. Tryouts are open to all Chaldeans between the ages of 11-18. “Chaldeans just need to show-up at the gym. We have coordinators there to get them registered, go over the rules, get forms signed, and get them on the court to show their stuff,” says Brenda Kouza, CCSL administrative assistant.
The first open draft tryouts gave coaches and scouting staff a chance to look over some of the community’s best basketball athletes. Looking to draft athletes for their squad coaches and top players from the Chaldean Basketball League were keenly eyeing the athletes. All-star players and community leaders like Samer Petrous, Alton Jemmoa, and Joey Jonna ran players through basketball drills and routines looking for talent.
During the first open draft recruitment tryout team coaching staff had a chance to see first-hand the talented pool of Chaldean athletes. Running prescribed drills, obstacle courses, and speaking with some of the athletes the coaching staff took copious notes. Coaches looked for athletes that had talent, were disciplined, and followed directions. Coaches and their staff huddled with athletes in the lounge and conference rooms interviewing candidates and discussing their game strategy and coaching styles.
The CCSL will be holding open team tryouts at the Gym every Sunday starting at 3 PM for the next two Sundays. Chaldeans between the ages of 11 to 18, boys or girls, are invited to join the league.
The CCSL also plans to hold a 333 tournament at Camp Chaldean in June. The three-on-three over three is a basketball camp-out tournament that will model the Gus Maker competition with athletes housed in the camp barracks for three days. “We will recruit some of the best athletes from the CCSL and invite them to compete in the 333 in June. We expect a few thousand Chaldeans to join the three day basketball tournament as players and fans,” says Kouza. “The goal is to bring the community together to watch some of the community’s best players while enjoying the beauty of Camp Chaldean.”
The CCSL Basketball ’08 Faith on Fire tournament promises to be an undeniable source of community excitement. “We will have some of the best Chaldean players under 18 from Michigan. We have a few that dunk hard and heavy. The tournament is open to any Chaldean under 18, boy or girl, who thinks they have the right stuff,” adds Kouza. “Any Chaldean that trash talks they have b-ball skills can come out and show how talented they really are.”
The CCSL will be hosting 4 divisions. Both boys and girls 11-14 and 15-18 divisions will have a chance to compete for nearly 15 weeks. Each athlete will join one of the Chaldean church teams and compete every Sunday from 3 p.m. – 6 p.m. at the Salter Gym.
Business and community supporters will have a chance to show their support of the CCSL by sponsoring teams. Businesses are able to take out advertisements in the CCSL program, have posters placed during the games, and are offered VIP dinner tickets at the awards banquet.
“The CCSL is paying nearly $750 every Sunday to bring the community together. That is the direct cost for rental fees, equipment, and other related costs. Coaches, administrators, and organizers are all working voluntarily donating thousands of dollars in their time and effort. Many are leaving their families, taking time from their studying, and losing out on their work schedule to give our Chaldean youth this opportunity. The CCSL director alone has donated nearly ten thousand dollars from his own pocket,” said Kouza. “It would be amazing if more businesses and those who believe our community needs to stick together and do more for our youth could pitch in and help.”
The CCSL has long offered Chaldeans organized game tournaments throughout Michigan. “We originally focused on adults and seniors in the early party of 2000. We held tournaments in table tennis, backgammon, conecon card playing, and chess. It was not until the new director took over that the focus changed to youth sports,” says former director David Kassab. “The new director is an incredible leader. Focusing on the youth is difficult and many of us just couldn’t handle that challenge. Adults can drive themselves, don’t need as much attention, are able to pay their way, and have much more free time.”
Kassab talks highly of Dr. Natham Karumi, a prominent and successful chiropractor in Michigan, as the new CCSL director. Karumi lobbied the CCSL board to allow him to create an organized sports league for the youth. Concerns of getting youth to participate, the high costs, and parents unable to get involved concerned the board. “We were not sure. When the CCSL commissioner brought it to our attention that Karumi wanted to organize a youth flag football and volleyball tournament we were worried and unsure if it would succeed.”
Karumi did not seem to have the time to devote to the overwhelming challenge of organizing large sports tournaments. Kassab recounts, “Our commissioner was busy running a political campaign in Southfield and spoke highly of Karumi’s passion and ability. We have great faith and respect in the commissioner and that carried lots of weight with the board, but we were still uneasy. The fact that Karumi was busy opening medical offices and growing his practice, plus he was already involved in a number of community charities and activities. We were concerned. Would he have enough time? Would he be able to sacrifice so much for the community? It can be very difficult and frustrating to get the Chaldean community to participate or support organized events.”
Karumi turned to other community leaders and sports organization experts. Securing the support of youth minister leader Arlene Kakos from the Chaldean Cathedral he then turned to the Chaldean Football League where he tapped into nearly 40 years of Chaldean football tradition. Securing the support of some of the community’s best players and coaches Karumi set-out to recruit athletes.
Karumi added about a thousand miles to his car as he drove around Michigan personally meeting with people and securing their support. Karumi met with Chaldean church parish council leaders, Chaldean youth leaders, and school administrators proposing the boys flag football and girls volleyball competition and appealing for their support. When there were issues of cost Karumi simply paid out of his own pocket donating thousands to keep the momentum going.
Karumi then reached out to Southfield Parks and Recreation with the help of the commissioner and reserved a football field and volleyball courts for three months. The season began and hundreds of Chaldean youth and twice as many adults cheered their favorite teams to victory.
Karumi is one committed community leader who has turned his success into a success for the entire Chaldean community. With his trademark smile he quietly and humbly smiled and said, “We all have to give back, especially to the younger kids because they are our future. They don’t need fancy cars, clothes, or houses. They need attention and praise. They need a sense of accomplishment and self-esteem. They need to belong to something special.”