Project Leadership’s Ice League Kicks Off With Draft Day

Ice League girls huddle. Photo provided.Ice League girls huddle. Photo provided.

By: Brenda Morehead—

MUNCIE — The 2016 season of Project Leadership’s ICE League launched Saturday with a Draft Day for more than 100 middle school student athletes at Muncie Central High School. The day featured students taking part in skill drills showcasing their basketball talents, as well as motivational speeches by Muncie Central basketball coaches.

The Project Leadership Inner City Educational (ICE) League, in its second season, is an innovative initiative that motivates participants to be strong student athletes as they move toward high school and post-secondary educations. The ICE League ties in closely with Project Leadership’s mission to assist local students to and through college. Project Leadership programming, which includes 21st Century Scholar enrollment, places an emphasis on strong student GPA performance.

Project Leadership’s ICE League sets the grade-point-average bar at 2.5 and higher for students who wish to fully participate in the basketball League for 6th-8th grade girls and 7th- and 8th-grade boys in Muncie Community Schools.

All players in the ICE League are able to participate in the League at no cost to them or their families because of funding provided by community partners in Muncie.

Project Leadership ICE League Commissioner Tom Lyon offered several highlights from the 2016 ICE League Draft Day, including that more than 20 volunteers devoted their Saturday to offer a unique experience for local students. “The community spirit was huge this year,” Lyon said. “We must have had 500 people in and out of here today wanting to show their support and see what the ICE League is working to do.”

The ICE League, in its second season, has built momentum from Season 1, said Lyon, who often sees students wearing ICE League clothing throughout the year in support of the League. “I’ve witnessed with a lot of other teams and leagues that when the season’s over, it’s over,” he said. “The ICE League has a staying power that sticks with people.”

One of Lyon’s favorite moments of the day, he said, came early during the 7th-grade boys draft pick rounds as coaches huddled in a small room to make their selections. “After the very first pick of the draft, the next coach in line groaned in disappointment as he scratched off that name who he also had first on his list,” Lyon said, chuckling. “And then it was on. You could feel the adrenaline and intensity in the room among all the coaches. It just felt different than our first year. It was more of a pro-style draft than what I’ve been involved with.”

ICE League 7th grade drills 2016. Photo provided.

ICE League 7th grade drills 2016. Photo provided.

One of the most touching moments of the day for Lyon: “A little girl showed up with her dad to register for tryouts. She didn’t have any tennis shoes. In between getting her registered and the start of the tryouts, her dad took her out to buy a pair of tennis shoes so that she could play basketball.”

At Draft Day, students were drafted to teams at each of the four core ICE League non-profit centers: Boys & Girls Club of Muncie, Buley Center, Ross Center and YMCA of Muncie. This year, Project Leadership is partnering with Ball State Sports Link, which will develop a documentary showcasing Season 2 of the ICE League from Draft Day through the championship games on April 9. The documentary will air on WIPB in Muncie, Comcast Indiana and other media partners.

A partnership with Muncie Community Schools and permission by students’ parents allows the ICE League to monitor student GPA eligibility before the February draft and progress during the 9-week playing season. Students with a:

  • 2.5 or higher GPA are eligible to play all 4 quarters of each game.
  • 2.3 to 2.49 GPA are eligible to play 2 quarters of each game.
  • 2.0 to 2.29 GPA are eligible to play 1 quarter of each game.

Muncie Central High School Head Boys’ Basketball Coach Jeff Holloway made two addresses to 7th- and 8th-grade boys prior to tryouts. Holloway opened his comments by sharing his rich history in Muncie. “I played here at Muncie Central and graduated from here,” said Holloway, who went on to play basketball in college. “After playing college basketball, my coach thought that I was good enough to continue playing, and he helped me get in contact with a guy in Europe. I was blessed to travel, see some parts of the world that I would never probably have seen, meet people that I never would have met, all while playing the game that I was passionate about, that I loved!”

Student players gathered on bleachers at Muncie Central High School’s gymnasium as they listened to Holloway share about what drives him. “It starts with a dream,” he said. “It starts with a vision. It starts with passion.” Holloway then turned students’ attention to a life principle that drives him. “I want to talk about habits – developing good habits and how they can develop you into what you want to be. Form good habits, and it will be automatic.”

He cautioned students: “You know what you’ll revert to when things get tough? You’ll revert back to what you know how to do. You’ll revert back to what you’ve practiced a thousand times.”

Holloway then ushered students onto the gym floor to begin Draft Day basketball drills with one more piece of advice: “Work hard and have fun.”

A high energy presentation by Muncie Central High School Head Girls’ Basketball Coach Lisa Blalock captured the attention of more than four dozen girls gathered in the high school gymnasium. “I’m excited about this opportunity for you, our school and for what it means for the community,” Blalock said in a presentation that engaged the girls in a dialogue about what it takes to be a champion. The girls, sitting on bleachers, offered their own definitions to Coach Blalock – hard work, dedication, good attitude and sportsmanship. In return, Blalock shared her vision in defining three areas for everyone to strive to be champions in.

No. 1: Champions in the classroom.

“Keep your grades up; do your homework,” Blalock said. “You can’t take shortcuts or take the easy way out like sitting in the back of the class. It’s important we all hold ourselves to standards higher than what anyone else will hold us to.”

No. 2: Champions on the court.

Blalock explained that there are some things in life than people can control and others that are beyond their control. She encouraged students to focus on the areas that are within their control: effort, attitude and actions.

No. 3: Champions of character.

In defining character, Blalock asked students to think about this question: “What would you do when no one’s watching.” She listed trustworthiness, honesty, integrity and kindness as key ingredients to strong character. “If you are a champion of character, everything else falls into place,” she said. “Be a great teammate. Use positive words to lift them up.”

And then Blalock closed her session with the girls by illustrating that very point. “Circle up,” she said, gesturing the student players to climb down from the bleachers and onto the court to surround the players from the Muncie girls’ Bearcats team, who volunteered for the day to help younger players in League tryouts. The girls put their hands together for a team huddle before dispersing to run drills.

“This is how we begin and end every practice,” Blalock said.

The first ICE League game night will be February 15 at the Muncie Fieldhouse. The 9-week season will conclude with an ICE League tournament on April 9.

FOR MORE INFORMATION: Visit or contact ICE League Commissioner Tom Lyon at 765-717-4111 or Project Leadership Director Tammy Pearson at 765-618-3908.

Listen to WLBC’s Steve Lindell  ICE League—Project Leadership interview below.


Brenda Morehead is Director of Impact with PROJECT LEADERSHIP