2021 Jr. NBA Conference powered by Under Armour Delivers a Dynamic Lineup of Speakers and Sessions Galvanizing the Youth Basketball Community
The 2021 Jr. NBA Conference powered by Under Armour will take place as a two-day virtual forum May 18-19 from 1-4 p.m.
Cheikh N’Diaye for NBA.com
Building on the Jr. NBA’s continued commitment to creating positive change within the youth basketball community, the 2021 Jr. NBA Conference powered by Under Armour will take place as a two-day virtual forum May 18-19 from 1-4 p.m. ET. Attendees, which will include youth basketball stakeholders from across all levels of the game including coaches, program administrators, referees, partners and parents, will hear from special guest speakers and panelists from the NBA and WNBA family about timely issues and topics related to youth sports and the return to play.
Hosted by ESPN’s Rachel Nichols, the Jr. NBA Conference will tip-off with opening remarks from NBA Commissioner Adam Silver, and include sessions featuring WNBA Commissioner Cathy Engelbert, NBA legends Grant Hill, Raja Bell, Quentin Richardson and Darius Miles, WNBA legends Taj McWilliams-Franklin, Dr. Chantel Tremitiere and Ruth Riley and retired General Martin E. Dempsey, among others.
A focus for this year’s event is facilitating more opportunities for participants to connect and network with their peers around the world. Attendees will participate in interactive coaching development sessions with NBA and NBA G League coaches, networking opportunities and discussions related to key issues in youth sports such as access and equity, program development, youth leadership, social justice and advancing the women’s game.
“This is a pivotal time as we begin to safely return to play and continue empowering boys and girls around the world,” said Adam Harper, NBA Associate Vice President of Youth Basketball Development. “To improve the youth sports experience, it’s important for everyone — from coaches and program administrators to players and parents — to be aligned and have conversations about ways we can do better coming out of the pandemic. The Jr. NBA Conference will allow our stakeholders to engage in open, candid dialogue and exchange ideas, which we believe will help push the youth sports space forward.”
Due to the coronavirus pandemic, last year’s Jr. NBA Conference powered by Under Armour was shifted from an in-person event to a free online forum for the first time. While it was unfamiliar territory for everyone involved, the NBA, WNBA, Under Armour and various partners and stakeholders collaborated to create a virtual setting that allowed for meaningful and interactive discussions on a variety of topics centered on the state of youth basketball amidst the pandemic.
One of the benefits of the virtual format is that the event is more accessible for many stakeholders, particularly the international youth basketball community. The mission of the 2021 conference is to build off last year’s discussions, while sharing ideas and best practices on how youth sports can return stronger than ever.
“This year’s focus is on creating a new normal,” said Candice Haynes, NBA Domestic Youth Player Development Program Manager. “We want to make sure that that new normal is more inclusive and able to serve young people in a positive manner where coaches and parents, as well as program administrators feel supported. We want this conference to be a space where the youth basketball community can share the lessons we’ve all learned over these past 18 months.”
From former NBA legends like Hill speaking about the importance of leadership to NBA Director of Sports Medicine Dr. John DiFiori providing insight on return-to play protocols, the conference will spotlight a wide range of speakers as they lend their expertise on how stakeholders can help youth excel on and off the court.
“We wanted to make sure that our network had access to comprehensive, relevant resources,” Haynes said. “Beyond that, it’s just selecting leaders who are passionate about the space and are passionate about youth. It doesn’t even necessarily have to be youth basketball, but they’re passionate about young people and passionate about providing space for young people to grow.”
As part of the NBA’s ongoing effort to elevating the youth voice, members of the newly-formed Jr. NBA Court of Leaders — the leagues youth leadership council comprised of promising young men and women from across the country who distinguished themselves at the Jr. NBA Global Championship — will participate in panels centered on mental health, building a platform and advocating for the next generation of youth athletes.
“It’s beneficial for young people to feel like they do have a voice and that the adult stakeholders are listening. There are a lot of things that they have to say that would be very beneficial for this audience to hear, to take away and, implement within their own programs,” Haynes said.
Kendall Dudley, who was named to the Jr. NBA Court of Leaders, expressed how unique of an opportunity it is to represent youth across the globe during the Jr. NBA Conference. After playing in the Jr. NBA Global Championship, she hopes to add to her long list of incredible Jr. NBA experiences in this year’s conference.
“I’m excited to gain more knowledge and experience it all,” Dudley said. “Not a lot of people are able to experience what I’m doing and have a voice. It is important to be willing to share my thoughts, ask questions and be able to be around such important people.”
Bringing people of all backgrounds together through a shared passion for the future of youth sports, the Jr. NBA Conference aims to drive awareness on the importance of creating opportunities for all boys and girls to play the game. With the support of decorated members of the NBA and WNBA family, the Jr. NBA is building the foundation for a more diverse and inclusive youth basketball community.