Community is defined as a sense of connection with others as a result of shared relationships, interests, and goals. At the Long Island Nets, community is at the core of everything we do on and off the court.
When the Long Island Nets were founded, we knew we wanted to be impactful, but we wanted to stay authentic to who we are as a brand and organization. After five seasons of actively developing our relationships with the local community, I want to provide a framework to get started and encourage other local businesses to do the same.
Our first question was not how the Long Island community could benefit our business, but how we could best serve them. The strongest relationships are not transactional, they are created with purpose. As Long Island’s only professional basketball team, we are uniquely positioned to understand and fulfill specific local needs. So our focus is on education, health and well-being.
Finding your lane is essential to any organic synergy. Regardless of whether your business is rooted in another industry, the strategy still applies. As a team focused on player development for the Brooklyn Nets, we knew we wanted to emulate that focus by helping develop youth on Long Island. We created the Long Island Nets Basketball Academy, a series of free basketball clinics on Long Island for boys and girls ages 6-14. At each clinic, participants are taught sports safety education and basketball fundamentals by local volunteer clinicians. We have succeeded by replicating a program and elevating it for community consumption. When our partner Hospital for Special Surgery (HSS) saw our impact, they were eager to support our efforts and brought in their own staff to lead participants in warm-ups and exercises in our clinics. We are proud to have hosted over 2,000 participants in 90 clinics since the inception of this program.
In our organization, education is given great importance because we consider ourselves students. In addition to hosting our annual Education Day game—inviting thousands of students and local teachers to our arena for an afternoon of fun and basketball—we’ve worked hard to ensure that the next generation of leaders is equipped with the necessary resources to be successful. . Our annual preschool supply program is a great example of community partnership. With the help of our partners at Jovia Financial Credit Union and Target, we placed donation boxes at local Jovia branches where members dropped off essential supplies for an elementary school in Uniondale and a middle school in Wyandanch. Together, we were able to provide 60 boxes of supplies to prepare teachers and students for the school year.
When I think about community, I also think about the direct impact our internal team and external efforts have on our culture. Our employees sit at the forefront of our social responsibility platforms, and their involvement creates a sense of pride and belonging in what we do. Some of the long-lasting relationships we have built in our local neighborhood have been facilitated and maintained by the staff. As a team, we understand that we have a unique opportunity to use our platform to improve the lives of our neighbors, and our common goal has driven us forward.
One of the best results of connecting with the local community is a long-term relationship with consumers. It also creates intrinsic value for team members and the company as a whole. With the help of our community, over the past six years we have seen attendance at our basketball clinics increase and ticket sales increase.
The Long Island Nets have taken an authentic approach to community partnerships, and in doing so, I hope that more local businesses on Long Island will begin to see the value of investing resources into the community they support.
Alton Byrd is the Vice President of Business Operations for the Long Island Nets.