Growing up as a teenager in Meadowbank, East Auckland, Glen Green had a rough childhood and was heading fast towards a life of crime until, a game of basketball changed his life.
“I grew up in a single parent house hold. Dad left when I was young. Mum always did the best she could by us, but I started getting in trouble with the police and was expelled from Selwyn College.” Says Glen.
Glen says his unresolved issues of anger and resentment came from his dad leaving, until one day, during a game of basketball, someone reached out to Glen, and over time, guided him towards the steps of forgiveness, changing the direction of his life.
“That person who challenged my anger on the court that day, taught me the power of forgiveness that started a positive chain reaction when I started sharing the story with my friends.” Says Glen.
Glen started helping his friends and others to address their issues and look as to why they were committing crimes etc. Slowly, but surely, crime rates in Meadowbank began to drop.
From that moment on, Glen formed a youth group, and contacted the Council to get a basketball court installed in his neighbourhood. Four months later, the basketball court appeared and in 1995, Glen was awarded a Good Citizens award for Community Youth Development.
“I thought, this is pretty powerful, and if I can bottle that recipe of the community coming together through basketball, I’d like to do more with that, so, after I came back from Europe, I joined the Police. It was great to be sitting in the front seat, instead of the back.” Says Glen.
During his time with Police, Glen was based out in Mount Roskill, going on to become Community Constable in an area where there were problems with youth gang culture. Through his position, Glen shared his story of positivity to local youth and got permission to duplicate another basketball court while building relationships with the community and youth gangs.
Glen says a movement had started to form with the idea of, ‘’the stronger gang wins’’ He says perception is very powerful, and if the ‘’stronger’’ gang is positive, positivity will work in the community. Within six months, crime rates in Mount Roskill dropped by 48% and in 2011, Glen’s programme had been awarded Auckland City’s Safety Award and a commendation from the Mayor.
During this time, Glen decided to step down from Police and officially started the ‘’There’s a Better Way’ foundation, taking the message of positivity through basketball to the streets.
Through nationwide coverage, Glen was contacted by the Federation of International Basketball Association (FIBA) and offered a contract to roll out a ‘’three by three’’ half basketball court nationwide and an opportunity to play internationally.
‘’There’s a Better way’’ has grown as a charity to play on the international sport’s stages for the last five years, including Manilla and New York.
“We’ve taken kids from the street that wouldn’t have had the money to play on the world’s stage, along with the Better Way message about treating each other with respect, and representing New Zealand in Basketball.” Says Glen.
Glen says they have fundraised and given back over $200,000 worth of basketball tops, shorts and equipment to communities that are not able to afford it, and continue to spread the message about the foundation, including rolling out a purpose- built portable basketball half court called, ‘’The Guardian’’ to communities, free of charge.
Eight months ago, an opportunity was presented to Glen to create New Zealand’s first, permanent and international three on three street half basketball court. Friend and philanthropist, Bruce Pulman made land available in Bruce Pulman Park, and over the course of four months produced, “The Den’’
“It’s the best street half-court in New Zealand, with a permanent two hundred and eighty seat arena, and the help of twenty-five companies that made it possible, from the concrete, to the backboard, to the power of the community bringing the court to life.” Says Glen.
2018 will be another big year for the Better Way foundation, starting with the court hosting the first of its international competitions in February, that include bringing back friends of Glen’s, street and professional basketball players from the Bronx, New York to play the youth of South Auckland, and visiting schools sharing the Better Way message of positivity.
The positive reaction from the communities and youth is strong and Glen says what is working, is the great gain of sport and basketball, and the opportunity to reach out to those in need, without judgement.
“Through that connection, purely by just helping people and giving back, it shows true intent. Once that connection (to youth) has been made, they can start talking about the deeper issues, if they want.” says Glen.
Between now and February the community will be able to use ‘’The Den’’ half court for free until competitions begin and Glen is planning on starting a permanent event on Friday nights, called ‘’Friday night at The Den” where they will turn on the lights of the court, cook BBQ and build relationships with the community and youth, with Glen picking positive role models in the area.
Moving forward, Glen wants to continue developing the game of basketball, including opening the international pathway to allow local youth competition winners to travel overseas. He will also be approaching Council and asking sponsors for help in funding for full time staff for Better Way, including basketball coaches, but also for people who can help keep the positive momentum of the Better Way message going.
“Better Way is built around being the street court movement of New Zealand, and without the balance of light in the community, it’s easy to lose your sense of right and wrong.” Says Glen.
Glen says he feels he’s been given a calling in life; to share balance, light and positivity through sport.
“Light shifting is the future of Community empowerment.”