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Staff Member Spotlight – MaryKate O’Brien May 31, 2017

MK picStarting as a full-time employee in February 2017, MaryKate is a relatively new member of the Philadelphia Youth Basketball team, but was born and raised in the Philadelphia basketball world. MaryKate grew up in Lafayette Hill, a suburb of Philadelphia, and played basketball competitively since she was seven years old.  For MaryKate basketball is a family game – her Uncle played for Drexel Men’s Basketball from 1982-1986; her father played at La Salle high school, worked as a coach for ten years before she was born, and is now the coach of the Jersey Shore Warriors 15 year old team; her Mother played at St. Hubert’s in Northeast Philadelphia and has been a referee for over 20 years; and her brother is a rising senior on the Colgate Men’s Basketball team. When asked how basketball shaped her childhood, MaryKate recalls, “my earliest memory of the game was watching the girls my Dad coached play at West Chester University. I remember being in awe of their talent and perfectly braided hair! More importantly, I remember seeing how much fun they had during their down time in between games. Seeing these off-court interactions made me so excited to be a part of a team of my own, which explains why I started playing on a travel team when I was barely 7 years old.”

“I believe the biggest benefits of playing a team sport at such a young age was being introduced to new friends from a variety of backgrounds, learning how to work with others, being confident in new environments, and forming lifelong friendships in the process.”

As a college and high school student-athlete, MaryKate understands and appreciates the hard work that goes into finding a balance between academics and athletics.  “I was very fortunate to go to one of the top high schools in the Philadelphia area, William Penn Charter. I can confidently admit that without Penn Charter’s emphasis on college preparatory skills and the positive mentorship I received from my teachers, coaches and friends I would not have been accepted to Williams College.” At Williams MaryKate majored in Environmental Science, specializing in Biology, and minored in Justice and Law Studies. During her senior year, her research in environmental design and city planning brought her back to her hometown of Philadelphia, where she completed a environmental design proposal for the 40 acres of The Logan Triangle – the same location of PYB’s future, state-of-the-art youth sports center. As fate would have it, MaryKate came across an article in a local newspaper that cited Kenny Holdsman, and “after exchanging phone calls with Kenny, I became more and more invested in not only my design project, but the PYB mission and movement.”

“Little did I know that one phone call would lead to an incredibly opportunity to pursue my passion and transform my career.”

What motivates MaryKate most about PYB’s mission is the idea of giving young people the tools they need to be the next generation of positive leaders. “Beyond giving young people a safe and nurturing environment to express themselves and grow as students and athletes; it is critically important that we cultivate the next generation to serve as advocates for change. What gets me out of bed every morning is not the hope of having a PYB student-athlete drafted into the NBA or WNBA (although that’d be great!), but rather the desire to give PYB student-athletes opportunities greater than the generation before them.”

With PYB starting its second year of the Collegiate Summer Camp Series, MaryKate is excited to have a larger role in the planning and execution of the camp program. “Last year, before I worked for PYB, I had the opportunity to visit camp and watch the campers play a game of NBA Math Hoops. I loved the idea of incorporating academic skills and health and nutrition lesson into the camp day. These lessons give campers an appreciation for the holistic nature of what it means to be student-athletes. You can’t be successful in sports without first fulfilling your academic requirements, and you can’t compete at the highest level without properly nourishing your body. I believe PYB is making great strides in developing its young people as engaged students, strong athletes, and positive leaders and I am honored to be a part of an organization with such dedicated staff, volunteers, board members, and community advocates.”

PYB is thrilled to have MK and as a part of our team! As we prepare our second annual Collegiate Summer Camp Series, we look forward to utilizing her organizational skills and support to continually improve our programmatic approach.

By Diana Venezia, Manager of Fund Development and Operations

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(c) 2017 Philadelphia Youth Basketball, Inc.