KANSAS CITY, Mo. — The NAIA Men’s Basketball Championship Tournament tipped off in Kansas City Monday afternoon.

Hundreds of elementary school students were in the seats to watch Georgetown vs. Langston.

The fun inside Municipal Auditorium started hours before the game when the young basketball fans hit the hardwood thanks to NAIA student athletes.

The athletes hosted a basketball clinic for the students through the NAIA’s Champions of Character program. The program works to help players find balance between sports and values such as integrity, respect, responsibility, sportsmanship, and leadership.

The young students learned how those core values play out in practice and competition by watching the older athletes.

The NAIA says the Champions of Character program also benefits coaches and parents.

Coaches work to reinforce the key values through the game as well as mentoring. Parents are taught how their behavior is key to supporting their student athletes.

“It can change their life including being able to hang out with kids older than them and see how someone gets there. A lot of these kids come from the same backgrounds. So being able to see someone who came from the same background I did and they made it here I can do it to and they strive to be better,” Ty Dean, NAIA Student-Athlete Experience & Development Coordinator.

The NAIA Championship will be at Municipal Auditorium through March 18, 2023. Tickets for all games are on sale.