The coronavirus pandemic has impacted youth sports around the country to a devastating effect.
Seasons have been canceled, youth circuits like the AAU have been postponed and various other tournaments have been adversely impacted in one way or another. Amateur athletes have to look towards alternatives to hone their skills. The Denver Nuggets hope they can be one of the solutions to the challenges of this time and are launching their new innovative Nuggets Basketball Academy this Wednesday.
“The Nuggets Academy is pretty much a club that will help keep the youth connected,” Nuggets Director of Youth Basketball Kieon Arkwright said. “We wanted to give that community a voice and really [help] grow and expand the game of basketball.”
Since Arkwright’s arrival as the Nuggets’ youth director in 2019, the team has greatly expanded its local grassroots program to mirror what the Avs and Rapids have in Colorado. Although COVID-19 has affected some of the in-person plans, Arkwright and Youth Basketball Coordinator Madison Montgomery have sought innovative methods to continue the local growth of basketball in the state. The academy is a significant part of their digitally-focused approach.
“We had to get really creative, we took a step back and tried to put ourselves in the shoes of the youth and parents and see what makes the most sense,” Arkwright said. “A lot of things we will be doing will be virtual, it will be content heavy.”
“There is a lot of remote learning going on in schools right now, so we wanted to give the kids something they would be familiar with.”
With schools facing challenges in keeping students engaged remotely, Arkwright and Montgomery looked at ways to make their virtual clinics resonate and one area they hope to draw upon is the natural competitiveness of their athletes. Through the NBA’s homecourt app, which is a part of the academy’s curriculum, fans involved will be allowed to see where they rank among their peers.
“I think there is a cool connection between the video game element and the AI capability of it [the app],” Montgomery said.
In addition to the workouts provided in the Nuggets Academy, Arkwright, who has served as the trainer for Nuggets reserve guard Monte Morris and WNBA star Skylar Diggins, and Montgomery, who played overseas, will be providing individualized feedback for participants. Both pointed to their recent success with “Chalk Talk,” which was held during the 2020 playoffs. Arkwright and Montgomery both broke down plays from the Nuggets and related them to youth basketball.
“We’ll talk to [participants] and be like, ‘What do you appreciate about your game or why is defense so important?’,” Montgomery explained. “The kids explain in their own words what defense means to them and we’re able to expand and grow on that.”
For two basketball lifers in Arkwright and Montgomery, they can only imagine the number of setbacks caused by the various cancellations in youth basketball. Both hope the creativity of their program provides inspiration and helps players get better.
“There are a lot of things we can do in that clinic that we couldn’t do in person,” Arkwright said of the technology behind Nuggets Academy. “It’s been great and it’s not all bad that it’s virtual. We’re able to take advantage of that creative strategy.”
To learn more about the Nuggets Basketball Academy, click here.