What is GameBreakers?
GameBreakers is a movement led by UWANTGAME to transform the impact of youth sport. It kicked 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 gathered to share their wisdom and experiences with black male high school student-athletes and high school coaches.
This student-athlete success movement is designed to maximize the social value of sport and promote it as a transformative tool that can improve the development, confidence, and identity of minority student athletes. Through a series of interactive workshops, lectures, and fun activities, student-athletes have the rare opportunity to network with and learn from their peers as well as influential people from the sports industry.
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 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 have the chance to connect with other coaches, share experiences, and learn what their colleagues are doing to positively impact the lives of young men. Coaches leave GameBreakers equipped with more knowledge and skills to be effective mentors, so in turn they can support the growth of young student-athletes on and off the playing field.
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.
New Orleans was the perfect launching pad for GameBreakers for several reasons:
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.
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!
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