The NBA announced Monday that its youth basketball program is launching a new personal development initiative to teach young players leadership, mental health and civic engagement skills to help them better prepare them for careers. in the sports industry.
The Jr. NBA Court of Leaders is a youth-led council of basketball players, ages 15 to 16, who have, according to a press release, “demonstrated exceptional leadership qualities” in the previous one. NBA Jr. programming, and who the NBA seeks to provide full support throughout their basketball journey.
The 18 participants (eight boys, 10 girls) will be assigned mentors from the NBA, WNBA, G League and NBA 2K League offices who, through regular virtual meetings, will expose young players to career opportunities in sports, including digital media, marketing, community engagement, law, youth basketball development and business operations.
“We wanted to establish a platform that recognizes the strength of young athletes to lead change and empowers them to find and develop their voice and for us to amplify their voice,” said Adam Harper, associate vice president of NBA youth basketball. development.
When choosing board members, NBA Jr. executives looked for players with exceptional leadership qualities.
The board members were chosen from competitors in the 2018 and 2019 Jr. NBA World Championships, a tournament that brings together the best 13 and 14-year-old teams in the world. According to the NBA, in 2019, more than 15,000 players from 75 countries competed in regional competitions ahead of the tournament. Due to the coronavirus pandemic, the 2020 tournament was a virtual skills challenge rather than a face-to-face competition on the pitch.
Two of the board members are S’mya Nichols, a sophomore wing from Overland Park, Kansas, and Amani Hansberry, a sophomore forward from Washington. They won the 2019 Tournament Respect Award, which recognizes players who ârespected all of their teammates, coaches, opponents and officialsâ and âwere considerate, had a positive attitude and demonstrated great sportsmanship. “. according to a press release at the time.
âIt feels good to know that the organization trusts me and others to be the voice of young people,â said Nichols, who represented the Midwest at the 2018 and 2019 Jr. NBA World Championships, as his team won both years.
âI’m just happy that people saw in me the potential to be a good leader and maybe a better player on and off the pitch,â said Hansberry, a member of the Mid-Atlantic team in the 2019 Jr. NBA World Championship. Hansberry, who plays for the Brooklyn Nets forward Kevin Durant’s AAU team in Washington, currently has offerings from DePaul, Rhode Island, Texas A&M and Virginia Tech.
Although the program was announced on Monday, attendees have already met people and brands in monthly webinars and workshops, including Gatorade and Minnesota Lynx forward Napheesa Collier, who along with Memphis forward Grizzlies Jaren Jackson Jr., will serve as co-chair of the Chiefs Court.
Due to the events of the past year, including the coronavirus pandemic and the movement sparked by the murders of George Floyd and other black Americans, the Leaders’ Court will focus on mental health, social justice and gender equality.
Mental health, in particular, has taken on new importance over the past 14 months as many children across the country have been left stranded at home due to COVID-19. A National 4-H Council investigation As of June 2020, seven in ten adolescents admitted to having had mental health problems in the first months of the pandemic.
The Leaders Court will provide resources, education and awareness to participants on mental health, Harper said. The hope is that participants will appropriate this knowledge and share it with the other adolescents in their lives.
“Let adolescents know that they have resources, that they have people who care for them, are there for them, who are ready to listen to them and give them good advice, knowing that the mental health is something everyone struggles with, âsaid Hansberry.
âDepression is one thing. Anxiety is one thing.
The young men and women will also meet with the NBA Youth Basketball Development Team on a quarterly basis to offer ideas on improving the youth basketball experience, which primarily through AUA, was faced with a burnout and health crisis for many years.
Nichols and Hansberry highlighted the pressures of social media and the constant competition among their peers as a means to improve youth basketball.
Hansberry mentioned that other kids he works with worry that not being on popular basketball websites like overtime may affect their ability to be recruited.
âI just have to remind them that it’s not really about the big dunks, the big games. You just have to do the little things, âhe said. “The little things add up.”
Both cherish what youth basketball teaches them about teamwork and persistence.
âYou learn to deal with certain things and you improve yourself mentally as well,â Nichols said.
The success of the Court of Leaders will not be measured by the performance of the players on the field, but by the difference they make in their community. Participants want to at least reach college level, but their dreams aren’t just about professional basketball. Nichols wants to be a plastic surgeon, sports coach or work in advertising. Hansberry could see himself as an entrepreneur or, like Nichols, as a basketball coach.
âWe see this as a unique opportunity toâ¦ emphasize that there is so much more to basketball than what happens between the lines,â said Harper.