When Marco Grijalva’s son’s basketball team was disbanded because they didn’t have enough players, Grijalva was inspired. He decided to coach the kids himself, and start a club with his friend, Jim Shewbridge.
So in 2017, he founded AZ FIRE Basketball Club, a nonprofit, faith-based program designed to build character, encourage education, and teach philanthropy. The club started with eight kids and ended last season with 15 teams, 140 players, and about 15 coaches. Shewbridge is still involved as the finance manager.
“We’re not a club, but a family,” says Grijalva, the director and coach. “We aren’t a pipeline to the Suns, but we are a pipeline to create great individuals.”
The club’s name is an acronym that describes its values. AZ stands for academics and zero excuses. FIRE is for fundamentals, inclusion, respect/responsibility, and excellence.
“We love to play, compete, and win, but there’s bigger things than trying to win a trophy,” he explains.
Kids are taught that they can be role models today, that they don’t need to wait until the future. And, AZ FIRE often provides giving opportunities in leu of training fees. In June, they requested canned foods. Training wasn’t possible in July because the gyms were closed, but kids still wrote thank you letters to nurses and military personal. AZ FIRE has also partnered with Phoenix Children’s Hospital to give presents to teens.
“I don’t ever want money to be a factor in whether a kid can play or not,” says Grijalva.
In addition to AZ FIRE, Grijalva has also worked full-time at Intel Corporation for 21 years.
“Intel has been amazing. They strongly support their employees to give back to the community. To be able to be successful there, coach my kids, and have my family support and grow my program has been a blessing,” says Grijalva.
For more information, visit AZFIREbasketball.com.