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Students compete on teams at an esports tournament during the Beyond the Ball: IT Immersion Experience at Texans Can Academy - Dallas Oak Cliff.

Texans Can Academy - Dallas Oak Cliff welcomed a new sports and information technology summer camp to its campus last week. Beyond the Ball: IT Immersion Experience offered summer students the opportunity to explore the world of sports technology careers in the NBA, NFL, MLB and NBA2K.

The very first Beyond the Ball: IT Immersion Experience took place from June 17-20 at Texans Can Academy - Dallas Oak Cliff. At-risk students got the opportunity to learn from leaders in the IT and sports industries and took a hands-on approach to learning what goes into the team and individual players’ performance behind the scenes. Near the end of the program, students demonstrated teamwork by competing in an esports tournament, using skills gained from previous lessons while learning about gaming and esports career opportunities.

“We were very excited for the opportunity to work with Beyond the Ball and to be the very first school to host the IT Immersion Experience,” said Cynthia Miles, principal of Texans Can Academy - Dallas Oak Cliff. “We wanted to bring some kind of tech training to our summer students and this program made a big impact on our students that want to be professional athletes.”

During the camp, Texans Can Academy students learned a variety of skills, including: how to design and build technology apps and inventions used to improve player performance; how to turn NBA2K and gamer skills into big business through coding, entrepreneurship and togetherness; how to analyze player analytics like an NBA scout using technology; and how to create a career pathway that leads to exciting careers in the sports industry.

The four-day schedule kicked off on Monday with an orientation and life skills lesson with a math element, where students created their own wearable shot counters. “The Combine” incorporated timed basketball shooting drills with life skills to teach students statistics and the importance of work ethic. The second day began with a “Team Talk” life skills lesson. Additional lessons throughout the day included the coding and inputs that go into gaming and controllers and learning about gyro sensors and how they capture and observe data in the sports world. Most of the third day was observed for the esports tournament, where students competed on teams to showcase what they have learned about the technology behind the sports. Students toured the new Geekletes facility in DeSoto on Thursday, while meeting and discussing gaming careers, entrepreneurship and real estate with Geekletes CEO Danny Martin.

As part of the program, students had the opportunity to learn from leaders in the IT and sports industry. Speakers included:

  • Thelvie Cullins Jr., a 2016 Top Ten Educator of the Year recipient and calculus teacher at the School for the Talented and Gifted in Dallas, taught students about how math can be applied to free throws through quadratic equations, parabolas and other techniques.
  • Harry A. Kennedy, CEO of HAK Electronics, educated students about the math behind certain aspects of sports and gaming and taught the basics of Arduino, an open-source electronic prototyping platform enabling users to create interactive electronic objects.
  • Mondrick Jones, a player analytics manager for the Dallas Mavericks, taught students analytical and engineering skills while applying life lessons.
  • Reggie Johnson, an advance scout for the Dallas Mavericks, discussed NBA careers off the court with students.
  • Danny Martin, CEO of Geekletes, gave students a tour of the new Geekletes esports facility and discussed gaming careers, entrepreneurship and real estate.

Beyond the Ball was started with the mission to expose youth to the many careers that exist in the sports world beyond hitting, catching, kicking or dunking a ball. The organization aims to end the epidemic of the educational system losing minds of minority boys to sports dreams.

“Being the mother of two boys, I have always worked to prepare them for success in the real world,” said Erica Molett, founder of Beyond the Ball. “Witnessing my oldest obsess over NBA dreams has always made me nervous. I told him there are millions of boys around the globe with the same goal and they are all trying to fit through the eye of the same needle. Statistics say that only three in 10,000 high school students will be drafted to the NBA. As the remaining 99.97% step into the real world, will they have the STEM and literacy aptitude to excel beyond the court or field?”

The Beyond the Ball: IT Immersion Experience goes beyond providing students with skills they can use in their future technology and sports industry careers. Additional benefits of the program include equipping students with advanced study techniques and habits for the future, preparing students with life skills and employment guidance to help obtain their career pathways, interaction with industry professionals and hands-on application for technical product designs such as drones, apps and cell phones.

“After working with the hardworking and ambitious students of Texans Can Academy - Dallas Oak Cliff this year, it was an honor to launch our inaugural Beyond the Ball camp with Principal Miles and her campus,” said Molett. “Our camps will make a real-world connection between sports, mathematics, literacy, IT and science, which should improve academic performance and introduce new career options.”

As a value-added organization, Texans Can Academies strives to provide students with services and resources beyond the classroom. The organization upholds the mission to provide every student the opportunity to pursue their dreams while removing barriers that keep them from attaining their education.

For more information about the Beyond the Ball: IT Immersion Experience, please visit www.hakelectronics.com/beyondtheball. For more information about Texans Can Academies, please visit www.texanscan.org.

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