Its rare that anyone knows me as Anthony or Tony apart from my nieces who call me Uncle Tony, other than that, everyone knows me as “Huggy”.
M: Where did Huggy come from?
Huggy came from my dance moves, I’m Mr Get Down, I love funk …I love dancing.
M: What do you do?
I am CEO & Head Coach at MBS – Mind, Body, Soul Basketball
M: You are really well known around Hammersmith & Fulham, Kensington & Chelsea & beyond (5 people have approached him to say hello within the last 10 minutes) Tell us briefly about yourself & what got you working in the community teaching basketball?
I got into basketball because I was overweight, very much overweight, 23 stone overweight.
I was 14, 15, 16 and I started to lose it – I was bullied all the time.
When you’re being bullied and teased, instead of doing something positive about it, I was doing a lot of negative things, until I met this Chinese guy from Edward Woods Estate…
M: What negative things?
Eating, not going out, sitting down in front of a TV, not motivated at all, until I met this guy. He was doing Tai Chi in Edward Woods. I followed him and what he did, lost the weight as I went on a liquid diet for about a year, which was hard.
M: At what age?
M: He must have had a big impression for you to have done that for a year!
He did! He was 87 when I met him. How he moved and what he was doing, he taught me how to defend myself, not fight but defend myself. He taught me how to motivate others as well as myself so I think that’s one of the reasons why I’m so hard on people when I’m doing stuff. Everyone has this mentality of yea but I’m busy, but how busy can you be for your own life?
This gentleman was my motivator.
M: How much later did it take for you to start coaching?
I started doing basketball coaching at around 21 years old. I was introduced to basketball by a friend of mine who I used to go roller-skating with.
We also used to go to The Jazz Café and listen to James brown tracks, that’s kinda how I got the name Huggy, and back then everyone used to wear 3 piece suits going to a disco… I had the James Brown moves, with the Huggy hat.
This friend, he motivated me, he moved to Canada but he was more than a friend and I think I learnt a lot from him about being more positive about things and being confident in who you are.
For a person whose dyslexic, confidence is not very high and so having someone like him around, builds you up.
He’s a people person, an only child, no brothers and sisters, so he had friends everywhere and I think me knowing so many people all over the place is because of what he taught me.
M: How do you think having dyslexia affected you?
It stops you from challenging yourself because you don’t try to.
It stops you from trying other stuff that you probably wouldn’t have tried to before.
My worst moment was when I went to British Airways applying for a security job and they ask you to fill an application form right there. Usually I have notes that I can copy to help me and because I didn’t have the notes, I left the application form and I left the interview, the guys asked why are you leaving and I said “Ahh…I cant be bothered”. Them kind of things a person with dyslexia has to face and it takes it toll on you. I think it’s the embarrassment of doing stuff in front of somebody, and that person judging you in a different way, but that pushed me to push myself in a way.
M: That’s really powerful.
I think one of the proudest moments I have experienced was working with an 8-year-old boy who was blind and deaf and getting him to score buckets. Definitely my proudest moment.
Everything was about touch and he didn’t even know who I was and that’s probably the most bizarre thing about it. I knew who he was, his capability.
To assist him to score buckets and the people who saw him do it were in shock by it. If a blind and deaf kid can do it then teaching everyone else is easy.
If people won’t push themselves but this 8-year-old can then you’re not worth my time and that’s how I see it.
M: What does the word community mean to you?
Helping each other, and those who cant help each other, doing more for them.
M: Where is your community?
My community is everybody I’ve worked with, them giving back, or them giving the time up to help somebody else or even them giving their time to help me.
M: What makes a community great?
The fact they have all done something positive or are currently doing something positive.
M: What are the best and worst things about your general community say London or your local area?
The best thing is I love the area and I’ve been here all my life, the worst thing is they don’t have their own established sports facilities, not only just for adults but for young people as well.
How do they progress or move forward if they have nowhere to express themselves physically, they are going do it mentally but they need somewhere to do it physically.
M: You don’t have sports facilities?
Most other boroughs have a main sports facility or put time in to developing a sports facility.
You’ve got schools within the borough that have amazing facilities, that people cant get access to. Theres no hub here. Whenever I have a new project it’s stressful trying to find a good facility. It shouldn’t be like that.
We want a facility where people can actually play games, host competitions. If I had my own sports facility within this borough I would put Basketball back on the map, I would have the best youth players within the whole of London, we would have some of them going to America or Europe on scholarships, they will come back once they finished there degrees or masters and give back what they learnt.
The young people coming after them would have something of their own to work with and I think for me personally that’s very important. At the moment there’s no future because there’s no investment in facilities.
I don’t like the way the borough and government has killed off a lot of development for young people. I believe in a world where we can be better if you give us what we need.
M: Tell me about your many travels, you have recently been to Brazil, Hawaii, New York…. is there anything you have seen in other communities that could be applied to our community?
Brazil. Working with the street kids out there, the fact they have a centre where they can go and learn music, dance, learn how to drum and meet people. They leave there and have nothing afterwards, they appreciated it, they don’t destroy it, it just makes sense and some of them went on there to work there and learn education from there. So for me personally its having something that young people can appreciate having and looking after it for themselves, take pride in their community.
M: What inspires you?
People who are constantly doing better. When I see people go through tribulations or not feeling 100 % about themselves, not doing what they need to be doing for them to move forward, and then they start doing something and have a different glow about them, its very inspiring, and it makes you think.
M: You overcame your challenges growing up, what would be the greatest lesson you would pass on?
I’ve been who I’ve been from the time I’ve been working with young people and the fact they were youngsters and are now coming back as elders and we’re friends. That’s very rare. I appreciate that.
That taught me that when I look back I wasn’t a bad person. I thought maybe I was too tough. John, my best friend, is someone I used to coach, we never liked each other when we met.
He’s recently emailed me, saying, “If it wasn’t for you I would not be doing what I am doing”. I don’t really take it in and I don’t believe it, but I think on your journey in life, someone that you meet inspires you to be more. In some ways, the fact I inspired him to be a better person, he inspired me to be a better coach.
People always leave a bit of themselves even if its something they said or a look, they leave something with you and you always remember them.
Follow Huggy & his team at www.mbsoul.co.uk