It’s more than just basketball to D1 Nation and its founder Special

Posted Jun 17, 2013 by Cadie Carroll
When entrepreneur Max Ivany founded the Texas D1 Ambassadors basketball team in March 2001, he had no idea that a little over a decade later it would become the D1 Nation organization with hundreds of Ambassador teams in about every corner of America.
Coach Max Ivany
Coach Max Ivany
D1 Nation
But that is not Ivany’s proudest accomplishment.
For Ivany, it’s more important that more than 100 D1 Ambassadors have gone on to earn a scholarship at the Division I level – and numerous others have gone on to compete at the Division II and III, NAIA and Junior College level.
“Without a doubt, every year the most rewarding part of the involvement with these youngsters is seeing them chase their hopes and dreams while following the blueprint I've set up for them,” Ivany said. “The ones that do have a high degree of success.”
So it’s no surprise D1 Nation’s impressive track record reflects a commitment that goes beyond just helping kids become better basketball players. Ivany told the Digital Journal that the organization also focuses on grades and discipline with the ultimate goal of growing young men into well-rounded individuals who know and appreciate the importance of a strong college education.
“Don’t get me wrong, the athleticism is important,” said Ivany, “But it’s more important that we help these extremely talented young prospects and give them not only the tools they need to be successful on the court, but to do well after the final buzzer.”
And nothing demonstrates this more than D1 Nation’s unique recruitment style. The program puts a large emphasis on character and encourages its analysts to get to know the players before passing down the D1 Nation endorsement, believing that attitude, behavior and academic discipline are directly related to future development, commitment and success both on and off the court.
After starting off in the Lone Star State’s capitol city, the D1 Ambassadors program has grown to have teams in Louisiana, New Mexico, Colorado, Montana, Arizona, Oregon, Washington, and Mississippi – just to name a few.
And with all the success the program has seen thus far, that trend won’t be slowing down anytime soon.
In its latest endeavor, D1 Nation established a program in Anchorage, Alaska. And what’s next on the list? Ivany says that if all goes well they hope to be in Canada within the next 90 days.
With the rapid expansion, however, Ivany says he tries to keep it controlled to help protect the quality of the brand, making sure that any new comers to the D1 Nation family have the best interests of the players at heart.
It really drives home the fact that Ivany, along with the rest of his staff, is here for the players. It’s not expansion, winning or the growth of the program that matters most; it’s the growth of the players into young men who will leave with the tools to find success after they play their last game. It’s about giving them life experiences they otherwise may miss out on.
“The players’ favorite part is getting to make friends outside their typical comfort zone,” Ivany said. “Many of them experience their first plane ride while playing for the D1 Ambassadors. Opportunities to travel and compete are a big part of their growth as they make the transition to zeroing in on college.”
And that’s what D1 Nation has in mind the entire time: Helping these young men prepare for the transition into college – not only as a basketball player, but as a mature young adult who will perform just as well in the classroom as he will on the court.
Joel Kocher has a son who went through the D1 Nation program and received a scholarship to play for Texas A&M – Corpus Christi. Kocher told the Digital Journal about him and his son’s experience with the D1 Ambassadors and how it is making a difference for young men across the nation:
“Let’s take any one of these kids that were on Max’s premier team,” Kocher said. "They were all accustomed to being superstars at every level they've ever played at – they were a star in midget league, a star in middle school, and a star on their high school teams – but when they come to D1 Nation guess what, every other guy on their team is a star.
“It’s intellectually fascinating to watch these kids who are used to taking all the shots, used to having it their way, used to being ‘the man.’ Then all of a sudden they’re on the floor with four other guys who are every bit as good as they are – in fact they may not even be on the floor, they may be sitting on the bench – and every single one of them is a star.
“They are all elite, and people respond differently in that kind of situation. Some respond with their best and some cower. Max uses that as a way to get these kids to rise above their own personal norms and become truly part of a team of elites. He bread in their minds that being an individual elite pales in comparison to the life experience of being on a team of elites.”
Kocher makes it pretty clear that the D1 Nation program is showing these young players the benefits of being on a team and working successfully with others. There is a big enough transition from high school to college already; being away from home, living on your own, choosing classes and making sure you actually attend them. But for student-athletes there’s the added stress of performing – the added stress of proving that you are good enough to be wearing that uniform. It’s a lot for anyone to handle, and Kocher says this program does everything in its power to make sure kids are ready for these big changes.
“There’s a pretty high fail rate of kids who go on to play Division I basketball. They don’t make the adjustment to being an elite team player rather than just an elite individual," Kocher said. "Max is preparing these kids for that. He breeds a reality that life is competitive, and uses that as a way to help all of them understand that when they get out into the real world, life is just like basketball, business is just like basketball. Whatever it is they choose to do as a career is going to be just as competitive as playing against all these great people.”
So while talent is a high priority for D1 Nation, it is clear that both Ivany and Kocher know that talent matters little if the kids aren't able to make that transition into college and into the real world. And that lesson is exactly what D1 Nation is teaching kids each and every day, and there is certainly no lack of evidence that they have accomplished just that.