Philadelphia Youth Basketball from its inception has been focused on the empowerment of young people as students, athletes, Academic Programand positive leaders.  While many sports-based youth development (SBYD’s) organizations also seek to improve the academic prowess of children, most of the programmatic interventions are focused on the attitudinal approach about the importance of education.  

PYB’s programs, whether through the school year, in summer camp, or even an MLK weekend, always include academic skill building and knowledge acquisition.  However, our pedagogical methods are intentionally designed to 1) be contextually relevant, 2) emphasize youth voice and youth perspectives; and 3) not “feel like school”.

Currently, we are midway through our middle school partnership program with six schools in North Philadelphia.  During the week, each program convenes at the host school site, while on Saturdays, all of our student-athletes convene either at Central High School or a Philadelphia-based college campus.  The academic “off court” hour at the school sites is focused on a weekly “sport and society” social justice module, created by our expert volunteer educational consultant Amy Cohen with input from our Academic Mentors.  Topics have included current events such as Colin Kaepernick and the national anthem protest, Phil Jackson’s characterization of the business and social circles of Lebron James, and the impact of the latest immigration policy changes on NBA players such as Luol Deng and Thon Maker of Sudan.  These modules give young people the opportunity to learn about these issues, to ask critical questions, to think analytically before developing a point of view, to express a perspective in speech and in writing, and to deliberate and debate with peers thoughtfully and respectfully. 

Student-athletes write about the topic for the dayIn our city, a young person’s ability to graduate high school and to access a meaningful post-secondary opportunity is greatly enhanced by gaining admission to a high school that has a college-going program and culture.  The high school admissions process is competitive, as our city’s public and private school options vary greatly in their levels of academic rigor and resources.  While PYB is “sector agnostic” on the question of whether our student-athletes should attend a public school run by the District, a public school run by a charter operation, a private school, or a faith-based school, we do believe that children should find a high school that provides a strenuous level of academic preparedness so attending a four-year college or university is an option should it be desired by the student.  Gaining admission to many of our city’s better high schools is fairly competitive, and therefore it becomes imperative for students to acquire the necessary habits of mind and analytical skills needed to attend and thrive in a rigorous high school setting.      

PYB’s staff, board, and I would be delighted to hear your thoughts on this or other topics important to you and to our city’s young people.  Please email us at

By Kenny Holdsman, President & CEO

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