What is GameBreakers?
GameBreakers is a movement led by UWANTGAME to transform the impact of youth sport. It kicks off with a student-athlete success summit coinciding with the 2012 Men’s Basketball Final Four Championship in New Orleans, Louisiana. During this groundbreaking event, legendary coaches, professional athletes, and college athletes will gather to share their wisdom and experiences with black male high school student-athletes and high school coaches.
GameBreakers is designed to maximize the social value of sport and promote it as a transformative tool that can aid the positive development, confidence, and identity of young black males. GameBreakers aims to shape the future of sports from the grassroots level by equipping African-American male athletes with the skills they need to succeed.
By participating in GameBreakers, high school student-athletes and coaches have the rare opportunity to mingle with and learn from their peers as well as influential people from the sports world. Through a series of interactive workshops, lectures, and fun activities, student-athletes will learn about the importance of mentoring and the instrumental role mentors play; get tips on becoming college athletes; receive insider knowledge of the sports industry; and hear stories from professional athletes and prominent college athletes about their own journey to manhood.
Coaches will have the chance to connect with other coaches, share experiences, and learn what their colleagues are doing to positively impact the lives of young black men. They will leave GameBreakers equipped with more knowledge and skills to be effective mentors, so in turn they can support the growth of young black male student-athletes on and off the playing field.
Why is GameBreakers important?
In the U.S., 79 percent of black males between the 4th and 12th grades participate in organized sports. Many of them have the dexterity and talent to play well and compete, but receive less support on how to succeed beyond the playing field. Coaches, by virtue of their position and proximity to high school student-athletes, typically become mentors and huge influencers in their lives. While coaches possess the knowledge to aid student-athletes, many of them need better tools to help these young men navigate complex life issues they face.
By properly equipping a significant number of African-American males with solid social, physical, athletic, and academic skills, we believe we can produce more inspired citizens; improve the quality of collegiate athletic programs; increase the level of play of American athletes in the global arena; and create more qualified future sports executives.
GameBreakers intends to address and resolve those concerns by equipping both athletes and coaches with the tools, knowledge, and skills required for establishing fruitful mentor/mentee matches that promote overall life achievement.
Why is New Orleans the first stop for this movement?
New Orleans is the perfect launching pad for GameBreakers for several reasons:
- It is the home of the 2012 Men’s Final Four, a longstanding popular American sporting event
- According to population estimates, more than 100,000 Black males live in the city
- It is one of six priority cities for Open Society Foundations, a major GameBreakers supporter, through its Campaign for Black Male Achievement
- It is a renowned sports town, boasting some of the most successful collegiate and high school athletic programs in the country
What happens after New Orleans?
The immediate goal of GameBreakers is to establish a year-long mentor relationship between student-athletes and former collegiate athletes and to develop a system of support staff for high school coaches and college coaches so that young black male student-athletes receive the mentoring and direction that prepares them to achieve academic, professional, and personal success.
UWANTGAME, along with Open Society Foundations, Tides Foundation, and Frontline Solutions—all champions of black male achievement—aims to launch an ongoing nationwide effort to advance mentoring for young black males through sport.
Why is GameBreakers focused on black male student-athletes?
Statistically, black males trail their white counterparts and other racial groups in areas such as employment, education, and health. Although a very large percentage of black males participate in organized sports, athletics is nowhere near achieving its full potential as a platform for building up young men.
UWANTGAME’s mission is to impact the experiences of student-athletes through mentoring, and the organization recognizes athletics as a viable entry point to reaching black males and effecting positive change in their lives. This goal mirrors that of the Open Society Foundations, a philanthropic organization committed to improving the life outcomes of young black males in New Orleans and other metropolitan areas.
What spawned the idea for GameBreakers?
Back in April 2011, when UWANTGAME founder Joe Branch and Frontline Solutions founder Marcus Littles set out for a visit to Houston, Texas, they only had one goal in mind: to enjoy the Men’s Final Four. But a more remarkable thing happened. The men observed entertainment celebrities and sports stars fill the stadium and witnessed the sheer excitement of sports fans as they brushed shoulders with the elite and scored priceless autographs. Littles said, “What if we used this major sporting event as an opportunity to change the lives of young black men?” Branch was immediately taken with the idea.
Frontline Solutions partner Micah Gilmer agreed with his colleagues, but he also believed coaches were a critical part of the equation. As a cultural anthropologist who has doubled as a football coach, and whose doctoral research highlighted the untapped potential of sports as a youth development vehicle, he imagined an event that benefited black male student-athletes and the coaches committed to mentoring and building them as men.
The three men brought the concept to the Open Society Foundations. Like all inspired ideas, this one took on a life of its own. Soon, GameBreakers was born!