Love for a sport is a life-long commitment.
After the relatively short playing years are over, many stay in the sport behind the scenes.
Some refocus their energies to be referees while others invest their money as a sponsor.
For Joel Jefferson a love for basketball has driven him to do both.
Jefferson is the managing director of Domino’s Pizza, the title sponsor of this year’s national men’s basketball league.
Under his watch the company has been consistently aiding local basketball through many means.
The company sponsored the Lady Heels women’s basketball team. That squad has been consistent contenders. They won last year’s title, came second this year and won the inaugural Women’s Cup competition last month.
In addition the company has also sponsored the Shaolin men’s team and a number of Cayman contingents that have gone overseas for competitions.
Among the more notable trips they’ve sponsored are the players on their way to the Island Games and a trio of Cayman players (in Collin Anglin, Collin Bodden and Dwight O’Garro) going off to Mexico.
If that was not enough Jefferson has got on the hard-court himself to referee games in the 2009 Domino’s Pizza Men’s Basketball League.
He has given a helping hand for division two games and recently made calls in a division one match between Silver Bullets and Wendy’s Tarheels.
Jefferson’s passion for basketball has not sprung up overnight. As the West Bay native explains it all started from his youth.
‘I started playing basketball when I was 10. From there I started playing organized basketball since I was 14.
‘I played on and off over the years. When I do play I’m normally a small forward or a shooting guard.’
The 6ft 3in Jefferson played locally, mostly in the form of pick-up games, before heading overseas for higher education in the field of business at Florida International University.
Even though his desire to be a businessman clashed with his longing for jump shots, Jefferson played pick-up games at college. He would often team-up with classmate, childhood friend and fellow West Bayer Collin Anglin to play those matches in the school gymnasium.
Among their claims to fame was meeting and playing against Puerto Rican NBA star Carlos Arroyo.
When the duo returned home, it was only natural that they would play in the local men’s league. To no surprise they would have starring roles on Collin’s team, Team Shaolin.
Collin continues to play at a top level at 30. However Jefferson has slowed things down on the court. For him the glory days of fade-aways and pull-up Js are in the past.
‘I played a little with Shaolin last year but this year I’ve decided against it. I feel like age is catching up with me and it’s time to let the young ones step up while I step aside.’
Instead Jefferson is putting his energy into his new challenge as a referee. On the surface it looks like a long road as he is lacking in necessary documentation and he is taking on a post that gets little respect.
But Jefferson is wholly optimistic and is set to put as much of himself into it as he did on the court.
‘This year my focus is on being a referee. One of my goals this year is to get a Cayman Islands Basketball Association level one certification. I’ve followed the game all my life and wherever CIBA needs me I’ll be there.’