Milwaukee-native Cheryl Mohr always knew that sports, especially basketball, would play a major role in her life. Mohr played varsity basketball for her entire high school career, became a 1,000-point club member, and was the first player to receive a full athletic scholarship for women's basketball. She went on to play Division 1 basketball at the University of Arkansas and then professionally for the Columbus Minks.
After finishing her professional career, she decided she wanted to give back to her home city and state. So, in 1995 she founded the skills-based program Higher Level Camps, starting with two traveling teams and 44 participants. Now there are more than 17 teams across Wisconsin and the program remains the longest-running Boys and Girls Amateur Athletic Union (AAU) program in the state.
Mohr's story is captured in a new book by Karla Jensen called Inner Rhythm: The True Story of Wisconsin's Longest Running Boys and Girls AAU Basketball Program. Jensen explains why she was inclined to tell Mohr's story:
"Not every day do you meet somebody who has played professional basketball in the women's arena. As I got to know Cheryl and her story, her history is amazing, her mentorship program with Higher Level Camps is outstanding, and all of those things worked together for me to say, 'Oh my gosh! This should be a book!' " Jensen says.
Thankfully, Mohr had been journaling about her life experiences since she was in high school; providing Jensen with material to incorporate into her own narrative.
While the story is about Mohr's personal basketball career, Mohr explains why youth sports programs in general are what's most important.
"I think so many times our youth aren't given opportunities, and it's just cut-throat. Off-season basketball programs, or any off-season sports program, should be to help players develop their skills, to build their confidence so they go back to their school program to be better players, and that gets lost in the shuffle many, many times. Because 99 percent of these programs focus on the win-at-all-costs," Mohr says.
She continues, "I just think it's giving back to the community, giving back to youth — and I'm an advocate for youth. Higher Level Camps isn't just about bringing boys and girls in and saying, 'We're gonna go out and win tournaments,' it's about developing their character."