The City of Philadelphia has a long and rich basketball tradition.
From Kobe Bryant and Rasheed Wallace on the high school scene to the historic Big Five Conference to the Sixer’s and the NBA’s Dr. J, Moses Malone, Allen Iverson, and now Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons, basketball courses through its lifeblood.
Today something very special is blossoming in The City of Brotherly Love:
PYB is building upon the foundation of basketball in the city and using it to create transformative change.
Leveraging basketball’s great popularity and Philadelphia’s deep ties to the game, PYB is using basketball as a foundation upon which to build programs that empower young people as students, athletes, and positive leaders. Founded in 2015 by five civic leaders from the region, all grounded by a common purpose: to tap into sports to develop, mentor, and inspire young people to reach their potential as students and leaders.
PYB are coaches, educators, community builders, civic and business leaders, parents and dreamers who genuinely believe that every child, everywhere, has value and deserves access to high-quality athletic, academic, and leadership opportunities. Their vision is to use basketball as a holistic youth development tool and to provide a well-developed social and emotional foundation to its young student-athletes.
Their approach – and what they have achieved in the past five years – is creative and compelling.
As PYB’s CEO and President, Kenny Holdsman pointed out when we met, the power of coaches to connect with, mentor, teach students extends far beyond on the court skills. This is a great but often unharnessed resource.
“My coach taught me that no matter the circumstances keep giving your best”
Middle School Partnership Program, a comprehensive after school program that combines academic enrichment, basketball skill development, and positive coaching and mentorship, is PYB’s cornerstone program.
Through a partnership with eight middle schools in North Philadelphia, the Middle School Partnership Program (MSPP) provides 240 middle school aged boys and girls with a comprehensive after school program featuring basketball skill development and gameplay, academic enrichment, positive coaching and mentorship, and healthy meals with nutrition information.
Offered twice a week after school at the student-athletes’ respective schools and every Saturday at a central location, the weekday educational component uses NBA Math Hoops to develop student-athlete’s math skills and stimulates their critical thinking and leadership and advocacy skills through the analysis of social justice modules, while the Saturday program is structured as a leadership development workshop.
Among PYB’s most innovative achievements has been creating a leadership and education curriculum for students from Player’s Tribune articles that they refer to as Sport and Society. Conceived of and created by PYB’s Social Impact Coordinator, Peter Kaffenberger, these modules cover issues ranging from mental health to racial justice to leadership to allyship to women’s equity.
Each module is based on a Player’s Tribune article and covers the issues addressed in the article. The articles are written by famous athletes and entertainers like Kobe Bryant, Meek Mill, Kevin Love, Kyle Korver, Allyson Felix, Elena Della Donne, Tobias Harris, and Zion Williamson.
Blending sports, life, community, and education so well and tapping into trusted and beloved basketball coaches as educators and leadership mentors (“Coach-Mentors” in the parlance of PYB) is a model that works.
And the academic component of the programming has garnered rave reviews, with 94% of PYB student-athletes saying that they were inspired by it and 96% saying they “loved” it, naming growth, game-play and bonding with their coaches as some of their favorite aspects.
Apart from their Middle School Partnership Program, other PYB programs include their Collegiate Summer Camp Series, school day Learning Pods, and I Am Because We Are, a partnership between PYB and Taylor Paul’s RVA League for Safer Streets to help combat the growing number of adjudicated youths falsely protected by gang activity and to show youth that they are powerful and capable beyond gangs and street life.
When asked about what he is most excited about and where he sees PYB going from here, CEO Kenny Holdsman focused on the critical work of youth development and empowerment:
At a time when lower-income communities of color are hit the hardest by the impact of the pandemic, economic uncertainty, egregious displays of racism, social unrest, and political divisiveness, the youth development and community empowerment work of Philadelphia Youth Basketball has become even more relevant. Our staff team, board of directors, and hundreds of volunteers, partners, and supporters from all walks of life in our city and region have redoubled our efforts of building a transformative program, organization, and center to uplift thousands of deserving Philadelphia kids.
Photo Credit: PYB (with permission)
For more about PYB, check them out online at phillyyouthbasketball.org.