Making a new life in a foreign country can be difficult, especially one where the language is different to your own. South Korea can be accommodating to English-speaking folk, but it only goes so far. That’s why, before arriving in Seoul this March, Dominic Dutrisac-Savard, a Montreal native, searched for a group that he could at the very least play basketball with to get some exercise. What he discovered was much more; a community of basketball players from all over the world called GOAT Basketball Korea. “It was my second day in Seoul, and I went to a scrimmage where I met some guys who actually invited me to their house for drinks where I met even more friends.” Dominic is not the only person to benefit from the community either, as the organization hosts regular games and events for people from all over the world.
GOAT Basketball Korea started in 2013 with a few friends who just wanted to play organized basketball. Hindson Her and a few of his friends believed in his idea to build a basketball community that hadn’t previously existed in Seoul. From a handful of expats, the group has grown to the organizing group that consists of more than 12,000 people today on Facebook. Many of the founding members still live in Korea, like Zack Navarro from Toronto, Canada, “I’ve been with GOAT since it started and it’s amazing to see how much it’s grown over the years and how diverse it has become. It’s really awesome to see.”
Every week, GOAT organizes one or more scrimmages for anyone to play. Hindson takes it upon himself to prepare for each game day. “A lot of prep happens during the weekdays that leads up to the actual game day. I think I’d lose all my hair if I tried to wing everything that morning; I’d imagine it being really stressful.” On game days, especially in the mornings, Hindson tries to wake up early and double check everything that needs to be communicated, the required documents, and equipment that needs to be on the court. Hindson is usually too busy to play in the games himself, which he says he has no problem with, so long as everything goes smoothly for the players.
The active members in GOAT range from amateurs to ex-professionals, and come from all over the world. The meshed international community is always friendly, and if there are any issues, it usually happens on the court where the competitive nature of people takes over. Are there any problems on the court? “Yes and no. I keep referring back to this point, but the community sense in GOAT balances things out and cancels any negativity that might come from game play.” The non-league games are always fun and easy, but when a championship is on the line, the competitiveness will always increase.
Running twice a year, a GOAT season spans eight weeks including a draft night, sponsors’ nights, game days, and playoffs. A major reason why players love GOAT basketball leagues is because each player’s individual statistics are recorded for each game so they can compare, see progression, and most of all, brag. All players who sign up to participate are entered into a draft pool and from that pool, qualified captains are selected. The captains go on to work with Hindson, the directors, and the team which they drafted themselves. After the regular season is over, the playoffs begin. The team that comes out undefeated is the champion, whom GOAT crowns on site. The real celebrating though (with the majority of league players) starts later at night and is usually hosted by one of the sponsors.
You could ask Hindson Her if this group is about basketball, but he would insist it is about so much more. Since his youth, Hindson has dreamed about building a community like GOAT, and he has only just begun. It’s an active community which has built to over 1,700 combined players and fans in a short three years. “It’s a great group and you come across so many different people who have different experiences – you learn so much. There’s also such a big network as well that someone, somehow is connected to everything. It really helps if you’re looking for connections to build up whatever it is you might be doing.” Like Dominic from Montreal, countless people have found connections through the organization, be it for business, basketball, or friendship. Andrew Lujan from New Mexico, Albuquerque, came to Seoul a year ago and spoke to what the group means to him on and off the court, “The thing about GOAT is you get to meet so many people. Yeah of course I love playing basketball, but I feel so fortunate to have experienced what GOAT offers off the court. That’s friendship and that’s more meaningful to me than any game of basketball.”
GOAT Basketball offers basketball to people from all over the world. If you would like to get involved, GOAT posts pickup games and league invites on the Facebook community page and players simply need to write their name in the comments to ensure a spot on the court.
Hindson Her and his team, Jason Minkee Kim (Director), JJ Kim (Director), Steve Kim (Network), and Sherman Shi (Photos and Media Director), have pushed GOAT further than they ever thought possible. On March 10, GOAT Basketball Korea became a registered non-profit organization in South Korea, and Hindson believes this is just the beginning, “We really want to try and offer a great experience when players come out to ball with us. It’s been a great learning experience but I’m positive that it’s going to be quite special.”