President and CEO Kenny Holdsman has been a staple in the Philadelphia youth development community for over three decades. His leadership and meaningful contributions in the lives of young people and communities, both on and off the court has been felt both locally and nationally. Growing up in Elkins Park, PA, Kenny is a proud graduate of Cheltenham High School, Lehigh University, and Temple University School of law.
After attending Lehigh, Kenny spent four years in D.C. working on Capitol Hill, focused on public policy that intersects urban young people, schools and communities, and the revitalization of urban neighborhoods. Kenny’s next move professional brought him back home to Philadelphia to pursue a law degree at Temple and four years later, degree in hand, Kenny went to work at Ballard Spahr, a top law firm in Philadelphia. However, after almost two years there, he felt something was personally missing in legal work: passion.
One of Kenny’s mentors at Ballard Spahr offered him some great advice that would alter his career path forever: “To have true personal and professional fulfillment, one must align his/her knowledge and skills with values and passions.” As attested to by Kenny himself, “when this wisdom was shared with me, it really hit home for me.”
An opportunity to build a youth and service leadership initiative with the Philadelphia School District then presented itself in 1988. Re-igniting a deeply held conviction to help create opportunities for young people to find voice, value, visibility in their schools and communities, Kenny emerged himself in this significant career pivot. After six and half years with the District, and another half-decade doing national youth civic engagement work, Kenny became the President of the Arthur Ashe Youth Tennis and Education (now named Legacy Youth Tennis and Education) in the East Falls neighborhood of Philadelphia. This position gave Kenny an opportunity to apply a range of professional and volunteer experiences into the rapidly emerging space of sports-based development.
After a strong tenure at Legacy for six years, Kenny came to the conclusion that there was a better way to reach more kids at deeper levels. As explained by Kenny, “I saw the impact Legacy was making, but I knew that tennis or any alternative sport, could only go so far in its reach. I thought, why not take the business model, and practices from Legacy and apply them with the game of basketball, a sport which resonates with a wider range of kids, especially in our home town of Philadelphia.” Philadelphia is a basketball city, through and through, and with Kenny’s love of the game and years of community service, combined with an extensive business and nonprofit leadership background, he joined with a set of co-founders, and founding board members to create Philadelphia Youth Basketball.
Connection with PYB:
As President and CEO of PYB, Kenny has always had a deep-rooted belief in being an ally to a long-standing struggle for access and opportunity—particularly those experiences with lower income people of color. Basketball is an amazing game, and the lessons learned from the game can be plentiful, however, PYB teaches its kids that there is life beyond basketball. As Kenny said, “For PYB, the focus of our efforts has always been the empowerment of young people, families, and communities, especially those without abundant wealth and opportunities.”
Goals for PYB:
Kenny has many goals for PYB, however, the main objective is to acquire a signature building and renovate it into a youth basketball and education center. The youth center would create transformative opportunities for young people to positively change the trajectories of their lives. “Creating a second home for the kids is quite important. Providing a place for kids to spend multiple hours a day and giving them a chance to learn and grow both formally and informally, is a life-changing opportunity,” he said.
Most impactful moment at PYB:
The inaugural Game Time Gala last March was an amazing moment for Kenny and the PYB team. More so than the Gala itself, what it represented was very important to Kenny. Having 425 people in a room, all of whom were motivated to contribute and give their time to PYB was a truly special event. “The Gala was a captivating moment—it was a great reflection of just how far we have come, in a short amount of time. Seeing a legitimate base of supporters, which is growing every day, was a very special moment to me and the staff at PYB.” A couple of the other most impactful moments for Kenny include a program visit from Kobe Bryant and the addition of HoopHers to the program suite, which focuses on enabling female student-athletes to be confident as basketball players and future leaders.
Kenny says that his personal basketball game is currently at an all-time low, citing it would be hard for him to make a high school JV team. After years of running amuck in both Lehigh and Temple intramural leagues, his reign has finally come to an end. Kenny is also known as a notoriously long and frequent emailer. However, if you ever asked anyone who has had the pleasure of working with Kenny, his analytical and thoughtful approach is said to be one of his strongest and sometimes least desirable traits.