Tarik Black's career has been bookended by two important stops. The first, when he launched his basketball career at the University of Memphis, starring for the Tigers from 2010-2013 before transferring to Kansas and embarking upon his NBA life. Then there's the more recent, his two years spent with Maccabi Tel Aviv in Israel. While Black is currently a free agent, he and the Tarik Black Foundation have used the connections he made in Memphis and Tel Aviv to create a multi-national collaboration that will take place November 23-25: the Global Sports Tech Youth Challenge.
Powered by Tel Aviv tech company Colosseum Sports International Innovation Group and in partnership with Memphis computer tech learning center CodeCrew, the Global Sports Tech Youth Challenge is a cross-cultural partnership meant to teach kids about the intersection of technology, sports, and how they can use their technological know-how to leverage it into entrepreneurial activities. It provides an opportunity for youths aged 11-16 to virtually attend panels hosted by leaders of the sports technology industry. The goals for the inaugural challenge, according to Judith Black Moore, Tarik's mother and the president of the foundation, are much broader than that.
"We have four program anchors: awareness and diversity, wealth creation, technology and healthy habits. And obviously, the Global Sports Youth Tech Challenge falls under the category of two, which is global awareness and technology. So that's what brings us to here," Moore told The Big Lead. "Earlier this year we reached out to Colosseum Sports and they were saying, 'Well, you know, we would really like to do something and continue to partner with the Tarik Black Foundation because we'd like to do something with young people.' So we partnered and we tried to come up with what could we do to work with Colosseum Sports. And we ended up partnering and reaching out to CodeCrew, because they're a sports computer technology center for young people where they teach coding and other computer technology skills.
"Since they were already established, we asked them if they wanted to be involved with us and help us to develop a concept or an idea that we could all work together on. We came up with the idea of this challenge and the opportunity for the young people in Memphis and CodeCrew to challenge the young people in Israel over 2.5 days to create sport tech innovations."
Black wants his foundation to work in every city he's played in. The Global Sports Youth Tech Challenge came to be as a result of that goal. He connected with Colosseum while in Israel and has been working in Memphis since the foundation was started in 2017. Colosseum asked Black to speak at their yearly tech summit last year, which led to a desire from both parties to do something bigger together. The foundation approached CodeCrew to see if they were interested in a trans-Atlantic partnership. They were indeed, as CodeCrew executive director and co-founder Meka Egwuekwe tells it.
"When [Moore] approached us with this, we were excited about the idea, especially involving kids and the cross-cultural exchange opportunities between the kids and Memphis and kids in Tel Aviv," said Egwuekwe. "We were immediately excited. We weren't exactly sure as to what we might do together. That's when we suggested that we adapt our Have a Thought model, and it evolved to this."
The actual structure of the challenge is fairly simple, derived from CodeCrew's structure in their own programs they've been using for years. The event will span three days featuring five teams from America and five teams from Tel Aviv. During those days, each team will attempt to come up with an entrepreneurial idea that combines technology and sports. This could be anything from a new way to measure athlete performance to methods of improving fan experiences at arenas. All the while, the teams will be interacting with each other as a form of cultural exchange and mentored by a varied group of experts in the field, as well as enjoying presentations from guest speakers.
On the final day, each team will present their project to a group of international judges who will then decide which is the best in a Shark Tank-style format. The winning group will then have their innovation presented at the Tel Aviv International Sports Tech Summit in early December. The challenge presents a great opportunity for a group of youths to ideate and then execute a concept of their own making. For Colosseum managing director Timothee Deschamps, he hopes the entrepreneurship aspect will be valuable as well.
"[The Global Sports Youth Tech Challenge] is pretty unique and a pioneering initiative in our space to address those two sides where we can merge the sports management aspect with the entrepreneurship aspect and altogether address the youth audience," said Deschamps. "But there's definitely also the inclusion of the cultural experience as well. Bridging the two sides of the ocean, one side in Memphis, Tennessee, and the other side in Tel Aviv, Israel."
"We thought that bridging the two youth communities will be will be very valuable for them to have a overseas experience, even though it's virtual, while also learning skills that that will help them in their future. Both hard skills, technology skills and then sub skills while living through an entrepreneurial experience."
Egwuekwe himself was of a similar mindset, and wants this event to allow the kids participating to think bigger than they ever have before.
"We'll be leading the workshops that the kids will be doing. We'll get everybody technical assistance and mentors to the kids during the 2.5 days that they'll be working on their projects," Egwuekwe told The Big Lead. "We like to say we're mostly a tech organization. But we also try to encourage kids to pursue college careers and entrepreneurship in tech. And so this is right up the entrepreneurship space for us."
Black himself will not be playing a role in this particular event after the recent birth of his daughter and with NBA free agency on the horizon. But Moore, a newly-minted grandmother, is excited to finally see it all come together after six months of planning. The foundation has come a long way from its early days under her watch, and she hopes this will be the start of many cross-cultural events that the foundation can put together.
"Our vision is that this will be something that will be ongoing. First of all, it comes under the global and technology [anchor], and it also comes under character building because we feel like kids [interacting with] different cultures, this could help to prevent bias and xenophobia and help perpetuate understanding. And that is part of what we want to do with this. And we want kids to be globally-minded citizens and well prepared. That's part of, even from the very beginning when we got started, what we want to do."
Sharon Weiss, Chief Technology Officer and General Manger of Minute Media (The Big Lead's parent company) will be speaking at the Global Sports Youth Tech Challenge.