Corey and Mimi Sommers arrived in Scottsdale just about a year ago. Relocating from the Bay Area, the Sommers went in search of a basketball academy for their 10-year-old son E.J.
“We knew we wanted to be a part of the community. That was really important to us,” said Mimi. “When our son showed an interest in basketball, we went looking for different specialized training facilities but we couldn’t really find anything. So we thought, well, let’s build it and they will come.”
So they did.
On June 1, in the shadows of the Scottsdale Airport, the DreamTeam Academy opened its doors and the balls haven't stopped bouncing since.
“It’s a tall order,” said Mimi. “The DreamTeam Academy to us is using basketball as a vehicle to building better life skills. We want basketball to bring the community together. We want to bring kids together. We want them to be mentors and create their own dreams through basketball and empowerment.”
Open to boys and girls for half and full-day sessions, the academy's centers its curriculum around refining and improving basketball skills but the lessons and activities aren't confined to just the court. The multi-level facility offers a club room complete with the latest video games, a relaxation room where the lights dim and massage chairs buzz and a board room - an area that can house everything from birthday parties to homework sessions.
“We’re cutting all that stuff out for the parents,” said Mimi. “During the school year, they can come in and get their homework done. They can work with the homework coach. We won’t do their homework for them but we’ll assist them and then they can be rewarded with court time, game time or relaxation time.”
Former Suns forward Scott Williams partnered with the Sommers on the project and serves as both athletic director and coach.
“We are here to build a better kid,” said Williams, who played over a decade in the NBA. “Anytime I can get them on the court and get 60 minutes of their attention, that’s my passion.”
Williams makes it a point to make sure his daily lessons go beyond basketball.
“I’ll coach them up on their life skills,” said Williams. “Things like character, morals, integrity, love for something whether it be sports or family or church. Those things are really important to me. We’re bringing in people to talk about nutrition, education and social issues every day. We touch on everything from bullying to pressures in the classroom.”
Academy members can play hours upon hours of basketball but the expectations of each child are extensive. Phones are checked each day at the door and every DreamTeam Academy member agrees to and signs a code of conduct.
“We really pride ourselves on holding children accountable,” said Mimi. “There’s a code of conduct right on the wall. Every child that comes in has to read it, sign it and take an oath that they will abide by the house rules. Infringing on that code of conduct may mean their privileges may be suspended. Just like an NBA team.”
Of course, omnipresent video games offer a welcome respite from the court.
“You can’t get away from the Xbox and the Wii but at least they are here interacting with one another. Whether they’re racing against someone or playing NBA 2K, at least they’re interacting with someone and not looking down at their tablets all day,” said Mimi.
So far, the concept is a hit with the kids.
“It’s better than some of the camps I’ve been to,” said Mason Dockery, a 13-year-old academy member. “I get to play basketball and video games. I enjoy those so it’s fun to do different things and not get bored.”
“I like how there are other kids around that have the same interest,” said Emerson Stafford, an 11-year-old aspiring basketball player. “You can just be yourself.”
A basketball academy and much, much more - not a bad way for any kid to spend the day.
“We are setting tangible goals for these kids and they don’t want to leave,” said a laughing Mimi. “In fact, we have to escort them out because they don’t want to leave. Then the parents come and they don’t want to leave. So we know we’re doing something right.”
For more information visit dreamteamacademy.com.
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