Last weekend, the Roseland Community Center was the site of the Beyond the Game Skills Camp. The day was filled with physicians, coaches, and other professionals that taught young athletes about injury prevention, honed their basketball skills with skills challenges, and more ways that mixed STEM with sport. I spoke with Beyond the Ball CEO Erica Molett about the event and the importance of showing youth that there’s more to the art of sport than just being in the game.
Why did you start Beyond the Ball?
“Beyond the Ball was originally inspired by my older son Kyle when he was about 10, he’s 17 now. He was so obsessed with basketball, but I knew he had less than a 2% chance of going pro. I wanted to make sure that he could bottle up all of the passion and work ethic that sports was giving him, but also be able to apply that to other areas of his life. Beyond the Ball exposes students to the math, science and innovative careers beyond the game.”
When did you start Beyond the Ball?
“Beyond the Ball has been around since 2019 and one of our biggest projects that we continue to do year after year is our sneaker lab, and it is a sneaker industry immersion program that we built with Nike back in 2019 and we’ve served students from middle school all the way through students at Howard University, and a special project that we did with Nike and [actor, writer, and producer] Issa Rae in 2021.”
Talk to us about the Beyond the Game Skills Camp
“The Beyond the Game Skills camp, which is what you’re experiencing today, has a Sneaker Lab helps them to be exposed to careers in the sneaker industry by meeting mentors from all over the world, from Nike, Converse and Jordan, their parent companies. They also have the chance to be placed in teams where they have not only design challenges, which right now we’re using AI in those design challenges, but they also have to create business models, distribution plans, marketing strategies, they compete for prizes, and there’s pitch competitions. It gives students the opportunity to not not only improve their basketball skills, but to also understand how to fuse math and science into their player performance. Today, we had coaches and teachers paired on both sides of the court, teaching the math behind the free throw and then implementing that while receiving coaching on perfecting the free throw. On the opposite end of the court, the students learned the math and science behind the three point shot.
The third rotation was with sports medicine. Dr. Shaun Garff, the head of sports medicine for Methodist Health, as well as my son Kyle [who is now a high school senior who has been working in a sports medicine program for the last three years with Methodist Health], as well as, Jake [a sports trainer] taught students about injury prevention, analyzed different injury reports from some of the most gruesome injuries in the NFL and NBA over the years, and they talked about careers in sports medicine.That’s many of the programs that we do and we’re building more.”
Who are some of the other sponsors for this event?
“This camp for the second year in a row has been sponsored by the Dallas Mavericks and their Mavs Take Action organization. And so this year, we were able to have coaching volunteers from Nike. We were also able to have teachers from Dallas ISD and the African American Network Program, a coalition of African-American employees from AT&T called The NETwork. They, as well as Black Menswear, the Black menswear organization, came out and they were our volunteers during a special project that we had today called The Dream Lab. And the dream lab is where they, the mentors, sat down with two and three students to explore their goals and help them to create roadmaps to accomplishing those goals. Our kids actually had a chance to talk it out and verbalize their dreams to others in our Dream Lab and then be able to grow them from there.”
How important is it to make sure that you come to communities like this to give these young people opportunities to see that they can do more than be athletes in sports?
“We know that 98.8% of kids will not go pro, period. We know that in so many communities, sports are seen as the way out. It’s seen as the most tangible opportunity because of the fact that that’s what they see on TV and they have that opportunity to play sports as often as they like when they’re younger. However, the danger becomes if they don’t also understand that, they’re not able to explore other passions and they’re not exposed to other opportunities, and if they’re not able to see in close proximity people that they could be like, then they can skate through elementary school, middle school and high school, say, “oh, I don’t need math, I’m going to go to the league” or “I don’t need science”, “I don’t need good grades because I’m going to play professional baseball”. Then all of a sudden, we see this wasted potential from kindergarten through twelfth grade because they were never aiming towards a goal that they had a 2% chance of accomplishing in the first place.
So, it’s important to bring the world of opportunity into communities in a way that’s very intentional and actionable so that these students can start to catch a hold of their dreams for themselves then they’ll go into the classroom prepared and excited, and they will go through life knowing that they are aiming towards opportunity. Whether it’s on the court, on the field or a sports medicine doctor, or as a stadium architect or as a statistician, or they’re going into sports tech, they know that they have so many opportunities but can still stay close to their passions.”
As previously mentioned, The NETwork and Black Menswear were sponsors of the event and spearheaded the Dream Lab which helped students cultivate their next moves in sports, the classrooms, and life. I spoke to LaDrica Derrico and NeAndre Broussard about the event and why it’s important to show these young students opportunities outside of the field or the court.
LaDrica Derrico, President – The NETwork DFW
“Partnering with Beyond the Ball today was enriching and inspiring because not only were we able to help the youth understand the analytics behind basketball but we also unpacked their dreams early in the day with guidance to them on how to get there. Every pathway to success does not always include sports – we were able to help them see that.
It is important for The NETwork DFW to support initiatives like this because it takes a village of like-minded individuals/organizations to work together to impact our community with our children being at the forefront. True empowerment in this society requires collective effort to lay the foundational bedrocks that future generations can leverage. We want to be a part of that.”
NeAndre Broussard, Founder – Black Menswear
“We’re excited to partner with Beyond the Ball for the Beyond the Game Camp. The Dream Lab, where we’re helping these students here that don’t typically get poured into and ask what are your dreams? What do you want to accomplish? Finding a way that we can help to bring that out of them. A lot of them want to play sports, right?
I just show them different aspects of the game, whether it’s free throw shooting to scientifically understand the angle of your shot, the distance there and be able to tap into when you are shooting three pointers and having a long range of three pointers. So, really breaking the game down for them and showing that there’s more to the game than just being a good ball player.”
For more information, visit beyondtheball.net.
Follow Rashad Miller on all social media @theuncoolurban for more sports content as well as his Youtube channel under the same name.