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VIProfile: Andy Herzer




By Lee Reenick

When Andy Herzer created First Shot, he was thinking of the three men who helped him find his footing in life and reach for his dreams. They supported him, believed in him and mentored him; just as Herzer does with the kids who go through his First Shot camps.

“In 1978, I asked my parents if I could go to Carolina Basketball School,” said Herzer. “My parents said that they couldn’t afford it. I acted like a typical 16-year-old, pouted and stormed out of the event we were at. Rodger Gordon and his wife Betty were also at our table. He saw something in me, because the next morning he was outside of my house with a check for $395 for the camp and another check for the coach who was taking me for gas and expenses. I want to provide underserved kids with the same opportunities I had: a chance to find success in life.”

That camp led to his coach, Roy Wilson, now head coach at University of North Carolina, talking to Jerry Greene, then coach at University of North Carolina Asheville about giving Herzer a full basketball scholarship sight unseen. It changed his life.

After graduating from UNC Asheville, Herzer became an assistant coach at his alma mater for 12 seasons before moving on to Middle Tennessee State University in 1996. He left MTSU in 2002 and started First Shot in 2003. He has not looked back. First Shot’s mission is to help kids find their full potential and realize their dreams, as Gordon, Wilson and Greene did for Herzer. It began as a series of basketball camps, but it has become so very much more, growing and morphing depending on the needs of the kids it serves.

“We started with basketball to draw the kids in,” said Herzer, “but we have added art, music, dance, ACT prep and coding. After the pandemic, we plan on adding a financial literacy class in partnership with Redstone Credit Union. And, we also want to add math and reading tutoring, as the kids we serve are falling far behind in these areas due to the pandemic.”

Herzer is there to serve the kids, and First Shot has evolved with his student’s needs and requests. For example, while it started as a basketball camp, he has also found coaches to teach them track and field, volleyball, golf and tennis. They try to rotate the sports based on the kids participating.

“Sports is the least of what we do for these kids,” exclaimed Herzer. Teaching the kids creativity and how to find their voice is the passion that drives him forward. While he uses basketball to draw them in, he thinks his character classes that teach soft and life skills are far more important.

He is proud of First Shots many successes. Currently, the organization is partnering with Patterson Park and the Boys and Girls Club of Middle Tennessee to teach the kids coding.

“Coding is something they can learn and use to get a good job without a college degree,” explained Herzer. “They can take IT courses without the expense of four years of college, which they can’t afford and make a good living without the college debt. Coding is one of the cool programs we have to help the kids develop and evolve.”

One of his success stories is a young woman he calls ‘Tee’. She went through his camps and classes. She played basketball and was good until her senior year in high school when she blew her knee out. But she persevered, winning a full academic scholarship to Austin Peay State University.

“I saw her not too long after she graduated from Austin Peay,” Herzer noted. “She had changed from an awkward girl into a polished and courteous young woman. I barely recognized her. She came over and gave me a big hug. She said that First Shot had given her the confidence to succeed. It is stories like this that fuel First Shot.” 

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