Building community is essential. When you’re there for others and work to make the environment around you better, you help make the world a better place. Thinking of others and being present for them is always a good thing, and something we should all try to do more of. And when you get a chance to have fun while doing so, everybody wins.
Recently, the New York Liberty and Brooklyn Nets co-hosted an event at P.S. 001 in the Sunset Park section of Brooklyn. The event was in conjunction with the New York City Public Schools as they and the Liberty + Nets announced that the teams will be expanding their community-based youth basketball clinics across the city.
The NYC Public Schools Chancellor, David C. Banks, led off the proceedings and spoke about this expanded partnership:
“Innovative partnerships that support students on a journey to becoming well-rounded citizens are a vital part of any effective school system. It is an honor to work alongside BSE Global to help foster leadership skills and a lifetime of healthy habits, and inspire students to put the values that they develop to great use off the court.”
For the students at P.S. 001, the opportunity to come together like this provided joy and some gems they can use as they grow older. When Jacque Vaughn spoke with the students, he said that the game of basketball is a part of community and a reflection of society. Being a good teammate to those around you, forging new relationships, and succeeding in new environments is something that you can pick up from the game.
Jonquel Jones spoke next after JV and echoed his sentiments of having fun and enjoying the moment. She also made a little extra time for the girls in the room. JJ noted that by the age of 14, girls are likely to drop out of sports. She mentioned that sports helps you build identity along with working with others.
Also, she shared that 94 percent of women business executives played sports in their lives. For a lot of people, sports teaches you valuable lessons that you can apply to any context. Working with others, adjusting to tough circumstances, succeeding even when you’re not feeling your best? It’s all here and if you provide that support for girls at a young age, it will benefit them now and in the future. We’ve seen what’s happened with more investment into the WNBA, and if we work to provide support for women and young girls throughout their lives, we’ll be making the world a better, more equitable place.
The partnership hopes to reach approximately 50,000 youth by the end of 2023. That reach becomes vitally important when you take in to account a disturbing trend. In a recent story at the New York Times, Matt Richtel wrote about the lack of access in youth sports:
“A combination of factors is responsible. Spending cuts and changing priorities at some public schools have curtailed physical education classes and organized sports. At the same time, privatized youth sports have become a multibillion-dollar enterprise offering new opportunities — at least for families that can afford hundreds to thousands of dollars each season for club-team fees, uniforms, equipment, travel to tournaments and private coaching.”
Youth sports is increasingly becoming more expensive, which shuts kids out from taking part in and having the opportunity to play competitively or just for fun. By making it more accessible for all, we can start reversing that trend and give kids the chance to reach the game.
After the press conference wrapped up, I got a chance to talk with Jonquel Jones. She’s taking well to her new home and has spent time with fans across the city since she joined the team. I asked JJ how rewarding it is to see the kids have this opportunity to expand and reach new avenues together, and she told me:
“It’s extremely rewarding. I remember being their age in the Bahamas and we barely had anything like this. So to be able to learn from myself as a WNBA player, Cam [Johnson] as an NBA player, the coaches that have had that experience, it’s really valuable for them and it means a lot to be able to come here and see these kids. I see it in their eyes and they’re really excited about it, so it’s huge.”
As Jones mentioned, the kids getting a chance to learn from some of the game’s best is such a fun opportunity. Getting a chance to play with and learn from some of the game’s greatest players is something the kids at P.S. 001 will never forget.
The Liberty coaching staff were also present, as assistant coaches Roneeka Hodge and Zach O’Brien were on hand and coached the kids up. With education at risk across the country and cuts to what is and how they’re being taught, I asked coach Hodges about the importance of having a space like this where we can bridge that gap and create a more inclusive and accessible environment:
“I think that bridge builds a safe space, a safe space to understand that sports can be the way to go. Sports can offer you so many opportunities and open so many doors. And not only that, the people that you meet along the way. You never know how your journey is gonna end, but I think that if you start at a young age of building relationships with people from different parts of the world, I think that it’s good for your maturation and development as a young adult.”
Pouring back into community matters. We all have to be there for each other and do our best to uplift one another. When we do that, we make things better for ourselves and the next generation behind us. As the Nets and Liberty continue their partnership with the City Public Schools, they have a chance to create long lasting, positive changes for the kids of Brooklyn. It’s an exciting time to be a basketball fan in New York and it doesn’t hurt that the Nets are targeting young fans as a big part of their long-term marketing effort in the city. Will it work? Who knows, but adding opportunities like this carries its own value.
The effort also is just the latest initiative from Clara Wu Tsai. Also last week, it was announced that Wu Tsai will be honored next month by the Gordon Parks Foundation for her work advancing social justice. The foundation, named for the American photographer, composer, author, poet, and film director, seeks to advance artistic and education activities close to Parks. Among the others being honored are Angela Davis, the prominent scholar and civil rights activist, and Amy Sherald, the painter and portraitist who depicts African Americans in everyday settings.