One Williamsburg resident is giving back to his community by helping kids shoot some hoops while picking up some life skills at the same time.
Earlier this summer, professional basketball player, Jamael Lynch, launched the Big and Little Skills Academy – a basketball summer camp at the Grand Street High School Campus.
Open to students ages five through 18, the camp’s focus is not just on-court agility, but handling the off-court pressures of a basketball professional’s life as well.
During daylong sessions, held five days a week, a group of 20 students is taught about balancing their responsibilities. Students are taught about nutrition, given lessons in Pilates and Yoga, and how to articulate themselves in public, apart from the basketball training.
“When students think about the sport they usually don’t think about everything that is going on behind the scenes as well,” said Lynch. “I think it’s really valuable for students to learn this information at a young age.”
In addition to the training, students are treated to a host of basketball players and professionals who take part in the camp sessions giving talks, counseling, and advice on the field.
Lynch has built on his extensive experience in the professional basketball world to create the camp and provide the resources the students have.
He got into the sport at age five when his father introduced it to him. He said it had an immediate impact on him, and showed him how to manage different aspects of his life.
He has played as a point guard in the NBA developmental league, as well as for a German basketball team, Bodfeld Baskets Oberharz. An injury ultimately forced him to slow down, but his recovery is ongoing and he hopes to return to the league soon.
In the meantime, he wants to ensure that kids in the neighborhood he grew up in receive the same opportunities he did. He studied at private school, and received a sports scholarship to college – things he wants to prepare his students for as well.
Lynch said that oftentimes students lose out simply for the fact that they aren’t aware of the options available to them.
“Williamsburg is my home, and I wanted to give back opportunities to the kids in the neighborhood, and revamp the community,” said Lynch.
The kids aren’t complaining either.
“When I first started here I didn’t know anything,” said Tiyon Berrinbeau, 14, a student at the Grand Street Campus, and a participant in the summer camp. “Everything about this program is amazing. The players and coaches are very dedicated to what they do, and it’s great that they take time out of their days to do this.”
Lynch is considering extending the summer camp into an afterschool program once classes start in September, but no concrete plans have been made yet.
Big and Little Skills Academy, Mon-Fri 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., Grand Street High School Campus, runs through Aug. 22, for registration visit http://jlynch57.com/big-little.html.