Military News

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Youth program teaches more than basketball

by David Bedard
JBER Public Affairs

1/21/2016 - JOINT BASE ELMENDORF-RICHARDSON, Alaska -- Standing 6 feet 2 inches tall, eighth-grader Abad Senquiz III towers over Clark Middle School classmates like Gandalf over a shire of hobbits. With his stratospheric height came an avid interest in all things sports from a young age.

Dabbling in other forms of competition, Senquiz didn't settle on basketball until sixth grade when his pastime penchant turned into a lifelong passion.
"I suddenly had a love for the game," Senquiz remembered. "I started watching it a lot and realized, wow, I want to be really good at that."

What Senquiz watched was the New York Knicks storming down the offensive lane bound for the hoop. For decades his father and grandfather, both from New York, fired up the television to witness legends like Walter "Clyde" Frazier and Patrick Ewing lead the Knicks to NBA glory.

Today, the younger Senquiz harbors hopes to someday lace up and venture out onto the court at Madison Square Garden. Helping him strive for his goal are the coaches and staff of The Youth Development Program, a non-profit organization that meets at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson's Elmendorf Fitness Center.

Darryl Sample, TYDP vice president and a retired technical sergeant, said basketball serves as a strong basis for an active and academically driven youth community.

"The Youth Development Program helps guide and mentor youth in the Alaska and Anchorage area," Sample explained. "We try to instill confidence in their capabilities. We try to keep them active using sports as a vehicle."

Sample said athletics is one of three pillars TYDP instills in their youth, with strong academics and responsibility at home rounding out the other two. Though coaches shepherd the effort, Sample said other youths are instrumental in the process.

"Peer pressure can be either negative or positive, and we try to use positive peer pressure," he said. "When it comes to academics, we really believe that there are certain things you need to do before you come out on the basketball court - that's do your job at home and do your job at school.

"If those two things aren't in sync, then you can't come out here on the basketball court, because it's a privilege," Sample continued. "We really do believe in having your grades in order, and if there's a concern early on, then we encourage the kids to let us know, so that we can work with them to build their confidence up from an academic standpoint."

Sample said TYDP offers tutoring services to young athletes like Senquiz, who said he struggled with algebra. With the help of TYDP tutors, Senquiz said it soon became as easy for him to find "x" as the hoop.

"This program has really helped me academically," Senquiz said. "Now, my grades are improving, and I'm starting to become more focused."

That sense of focus is honed in all TYDP participants through a disciplined focus on the fundamentals, Sample said, fundamentals like ball handling and agility.
"We want them to be able to be functional on a basketball court," he said. "Sometimes, it may cause you to move differently than what you're used to."

During one practice, TYDP youth don't shoot a single hoop, because they were laser focused on dribbling. The young athletes lined up on opposite ends of the court and raced toward small orange cones. Their task? To seamlessly pick up the cones without interrupting their dribbling tempo.

The competition motivated the youths to do it quickly, while coaches watched to ensure they did it right. When one side won, the other was required to complete a lap around the gym.

While the vanquished youth completed their penance lap, the victors would beat their basketballs in exultation. It read like a scene out of Lord of the Flies, but it highlighted the sense of teamwork and accomplishment built into the program's methodologies.

Senquiz said he feels those methodologies work. Many talk about a holistic approach, but TYDP's emphases on athletics, academics and citizenship seem to fold into and reinforce each other.

"It was a lot better than I expected," the young athlete said of his experience with the program. "They don't just focus on basketball, they also focus on you at school and you at home. They want to make sure that the things you have off the court are right, and they want to get you better on the court."

Senquiz said he has suffered difficult circumstances off the court since he joined the program. Coaches came along side the youth during his travails, helping him to understand how the youngster's faith and wisdom acquired through experience can help him successfully navigate life.

"Sometimes, I'm really glad to have had the problem, because now I know better and I'm smarter for it," Senquiz said. "Through the experience, I gain knowledge, so I know what to do."

Whether he's experiencing hardship or his life is smooth as the backboard, Senquiz said he can put it all behind him when he steps onto the court.
"When I play basketball, everything else is out of my mind," he said. "I feel really good about it."

For more information, call Arnold Dade, TYDP president, at 764-3010.

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