As part of the educational component to our recently kicked-off Collegiate Summer Camp Series, we have included in each week a day in the classroom to teach young people about the importance of having a coach as a positive mentor in their lives. For proof of that positive impact, the campers in these classrooms need only to look towards our Deputy Program Director here at Philadelphia Youth Basketball, Dhaamin Stukes. As a youth basketball coach for almost 25 years in the inner city of Philadelphia, Stukes has invested his time, energy, and guidance into countless young people, all with the same end goal.
“It starts and ends with helping kids focus on the fact that basketball is a vehicle for them to do better things as citizens, and that is what drives me as the end result of how I can positively impact their lives,” says Stukes. “Obviously I always try to help them to allow basketball to take them as far as it can, but at the same time, I try to make them realize that the reality is that the basketball is going to stop bouncing at some point, and that there are a lot more jobs as doctors, engineers, and biologists than there are as basketball players. I try to push them towards the right tools, habits, and work ethics that will get them to that point away from the basketball court.”
After being heavily involved in hands-on youth basketball mentorship as his sons came up through various AAU and youth programs, Stukes decided to take a step back from that side of his life when his sons went on to college. He went back to school to get his masters degree, got a job outside of basketball, and started on some of his own business endeavors. However, despite having this multitude of pursuits in his professional life taking up most of his time, when the concept of PYB was brought to him this past June, there were no second thoughts for Stukes.
“When Kenny (Holdsman) came to me with the idea of a holistic, multi-faceted, youth basketball organization, it was an easy decision for me to come out of retirement because it really stirred the electricity in me to get back involved with helping young people,” he says. “When I heard about the idea of the facility, I saw a place that kids from rough urban areas can go, a place where they can grow educationally, can grow in terms of their basketball skills, and can serve those purposes for kids of every level. I thought about the endless possibilities for how much this could do for the city.”
After being very heavily involved with coaching in our Middle School Partnership Program, as his first return to action, Stukes is now involved all summer with planning and coaching our camp series. At our two camp weeks thus far, he has already noticed the positive effects that the PYB holistic approach is having on our young campers.
“The kids who have been here, who are mostly low-income inner city kids in the public school system, have been really attentive and engaged, which shows that we have something really special,” Stukes says. “Our task coming into every camp week is to add and incorporate the educational piece and make it interesting, and I think with NBA Math Hoops and the rest of the curriculum, we have a very creative way to help them learn skills away from the court and be eager to learn those skills. Of course kids will always want to play ball, but an educational component like this helps to transfer that passion for the game into the classroom.”
“I have mentored kids that have made it, both on the court and off the court,” Stukes says. “From what I have seen in this first portion of the camp, the kids here are being put on the right track towards making it as well.”
Stukes will be working at all four upcoming weeks of our Collegiate Summer Camp Series, and we thank him for his commitment to bettering the lives of Philadelphia’s young people through the game of basketball.