By Griffin Fabits
Of all of the ways the coronavirus pandemic flipped the world on its head in early March, Mimi Sommers knew the services and opportunities she provides for children needed to remain a constant.
Her basketball training organization, DreamTeam Academy offers skills and sports performance training to kids ages 6 and older. And Sommers knew she needed to provide kids and families with a refuge, as everyone was quarantined and confined to their homes.
“I had this feeling that kids would suffer being at home,” Sommers says. “We went to the drawing board and said, ‘How can we reorganize our business model to accommodate our clients’ wishes?’
“They still wanted to come in. We had to find that happy medium during this troubled time in our history.”
The plan Sommers and her team devised effectively allowed children to continue getting basketball instruction—under strict and unprecedented health and safety concerns. Known for hosting group trainings, sessions and leagues, DreamTeam Academy has since pivoted to small-group and individual training sessions.
It slashed its prices—by a near 50%—and hoped the Scottsdale community was comfortable to return to their gym. Sommers has since been delighted by the response.
“For me, as a business owner, it’s rewarding beyond during these unprecedented times,” she says. “I’m ecstatic. I’m hopeful for our future. I think this pandemic has brought our clients closer, and I’m hoping the community closer, so that once we can return back to a normal state, we will prevail.”
Another draw to the academy, founded by Sommers and her husband in 2017, is the impressive list of coaches and trainers it boasts, led by Loren Woods, who played six years in the National Basketball Association in the early 2000s.
Woods feels it’s necessary, as a former professional, to give back to kids in the community who want to improve their basketball fundamentals.
“It’s an obligation or duty,” he says. “We all feel that way, all my friends who’ve played high-level college or professional or who have been coaches for decades. We all feel like it’s our job, our duty, our obligation to give back.”
Woods joined the DreamTeam staff by happenstance. Earlier this year, he stumbled upon Sommers’ son playing in a club tournament and was impressed by his size and potential.
“I just went up to his dad and gave him a few pointers on some things I thought would be good for him to work on,” he says. “And once everything happened with COVID-19, we just felt it was a great idea to partner up and try to bring the best possible training to the kids that we have in our academies.”
Besides the professional expertise Woods brought with him, he’s also helped attract more high school-aged players to the academy, after it was originally targeting younger kids.
“Through travesty comes the rainbow,” Sommers says. “We found someone who can help complement DreamTeam so that we can offer services to everybody and grow and expand.”
In cooperation with welcoming young athletes back into their building, Sommers is doing so under extreme safety measures. Upon entrance, everyone goes through a health screening, gets their temperatures taken and washes their hands. Throughout training sessions, the basketballs are sanitized and a 6-foot distance between coach and player is implemented.
“We took pride in wanting to help our community stay safe and have the kids have a fun, safe environment to let off some steam and build some basketball fundamentals,” she says.
The rapport Sommers has tirelessly worked to build with the community since her organization’s inception never wavered during the early months of the pandemic, when families were wary of sending their children to basketball training sessions.
Instead, it only strengthened.
It kept the doors open and the lights on at the DreamTeam Academy. And for that, Sommers is grateful, even as she weighs all that’s been thrown her way this past year.
“We put way too much heart and soul into our company to just throw it away. We slashed our prices just to get people in the door, and they came. Luckily, we had loyal followings.
“If this happened right when we opened, I don’t think we’d be talking right now. We established an amazing client base in our area, and we reached out to them and said, ‘Hey, we want to keep our doors open. Who wants to come for training?’”
15955 N. Dial Boulevard, Suite 3, Scottsdale