DACULA - Former Harlem Globetrotter Tyrone "Hollywood" Brown revealed the secrets of his success to more than 800 student leaders on Friday. He cited perseverance, determination and a substance abuse-free lifestyle as the keys to his 11-year career with the Globetrotters.
Brown was the keynote speaker at the 14th Annual Peer Leadership Conference for Gwinnett County Schools. High school seniors and eighth-grade student leaders were invited to participate in a series of workshops on Friday highlighting issues faced by teens. There were sessions on body image issues, public speaking, career planning, media messages, dating etiquette, and gang and drug awareness.
"We're trying to train the students to work as mentors and tutors in order to help other students achieve academic success," said Margaret Cheeley, a Creekland Middle School counselor who coordinated the event.
The students responded enthusiastically to Brown, who came to the conference dressed in the Harlem Globetrotters' signature red, white and blue uniform. They cheered as he spun a basketball on his fingers, fist, arms, back and neck.
But most of Brown's presentation was serious. He talked about how he spent many years when he was younger trying to complete a college education and fulfill his ultimate childhood dream.
"I worked hard because I had a goal when I was 9 years old that I wrote down: to be a Harlem Globetrotter," Brown said.
Eventually, Brown did get his wish. But that wasn't before he had to get over some serious rejections. For six years, he went to the gym daily, working out and practicing 1,000 to 2,000 jump shots every day. Despite his best efforts, he was cut from professional basketball teams 15 times in two years.
"But I didn't give up," Brown said. "I didn't give up because I am determined. I am persistent. And I had a goal."
At the age of 46, Brown told the students that he had never smoked a cigarette, done any drugs or tried a sip of alcohol. Doing those things, he said, would have hindered his ability to achieve his dream. When the Harlem Globetrotters finally hired him, the owner said he was impressed by Brown's self-control in that area.
Following Brown's speech, the Atlanta Workshop Players performed skits for the student leaders addressing the issues of bullying and effective communication techniques in relationships.
The peer leadership conference was held at the Hebron Baptist Church in Dacula. Almost all of the school system's middle and high schools participated. Students were nominated by their schools to participate based on demonstrated leadership, academic standing, citizenship and motivation.