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Empowering Youth Through Sports Leadership

July 10, 2019

This summer, the Global Sport Institute and the Knowledge Exchange for Resilience worked together to pilot a new program to serve local high school students in the Phoenix area. Through a basketball camp, they were exposed to different career paths in sport beyond being an athlete and had the opportunity to build their leadership skills.

We asked our Director of Research and lead on this program, Dr. Scott Brooks, to tell us more:

T-shirts were given out to the students partaking in the pilot program.



Tell us a little bit about the program and the purpose behind it:

 It’s a high school leadership program showing students different career areas in sport. The real goal comes from the belief that kids have a real excitement and want to be connected to sport, but they only see it in one way: being an athlete. By raising their awareness in other ways to be connected in the world of sport, it opens up multiple avenues and places of focus. It’s not an “I make it or I don’t,” but instead it’s a, “Oh! There’s a lot of different things I can do when it comes to sport.”

 How did this program develop?

 This has always been a personal dream, but the opportunity came to fruition with the collaboration from the Knowledge Exchange for Resilience Initiative at ASU. It’s led by the Dean of Social Sciences in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, Elizabeth Wentz, and the Executive Director, Patricia Solis. The thought was how do we, as ASU, go out and help local communities based on the knowledge we have. How do we give this knowledge to community-based programs to develop more resilience in our neighbourhoods? They have a fellowship program where community nonprofits, in particular, apply for the fellowship and spend a year as a cohort on campus learning from ASU faculty to help get their programs to the next level.

What does the programming look like for the high schoolers?

 We provide a space where we bring in speakers from different career areas in sport like Sun Devil Athletics, high school staff who work in sport, and the experienced staff from the Global Sport Institute. They talk to these speakers about the skills and educational background they need to have for these careers, as well as what the speaker’s work day-to-day is like. They take those skills they’ve learned about and use them to run a camp for 5th to 8th graders - so it’s like on-the-job training. For example, they got to learn about and see the behind the scenes of working in media. So throughout the camp, they took photos and put together a video at the end. We also gave them tips on coaching, and then have the opportunity to coach the camp’s middle schoolers themselves. Other career areas they were exposed to were marketing, officiating, strength & conditioning, and commentating.

 What did the kids have to say about the experience?

 Before the program, the high schoolers weren’t thinking about careers in sports beyond being an athlete. For example, they experienced a-ha moments about how there needs to be a person to design a uniform for teams,  a person who decides the pricing of seats at games, and so on. In our wrap-up talk about each camper, there was also as much insight about how the kids interacted with one another and us. So much more beyond the hard skills, it was the experience that mattered most. 

 What does the future of this program look like?

 Going forward we will be formalizing this more, as this was our first year piloting the program. We’ve received positive feedback from the leadership at our partner school, Academia de Pueblo, and they are excited to have us back working with the basketball teams throughout the year. We could see this developing into something bigger, where we would take on not just one sport, but 2-3 sports and help run their leagues. The kids participating in the program would run the marketing for it, go out to find local sponsors, keep track of scoring, create newsletters and really take true ownership. After practicing these skills we would like to take them to the next level and build in visits with people who do the same job, but on the collegiate level of athletics.

 Why are programs like this important?

 Increasingly, more and more kids see this world as daunting and they don’t know where they fit. They want to make a difference but they don’t know how.. This program can provide them with an avenue of learning about themselves, learning what it will take to be successful, and they’re given a place where they can make an impact. Experiencing this early allows them an on-the-job experience where they get to be leaders and have a chance to be the owners of something important. We want to expose them to the vast amount of jobs, and whether they end up in sport or not, it gives them something positive to focus on. 


Some of the greatest moments are when you see a light come on in different ways; they aren't as shy as they used to be, they’ve actually improved and can make a layup, they know my name, they give me a hug, and there’s this sense of appreciation. When they get this type of regular reinforcement that they are making a difference, they feel connected to something bigger than themselves.