Our Executive Director and Founder, Deonte Tatum, sat down with Steven J. Mathie to introduce our new ABP Ecosystem -- a system designed specially with our Student-Athletes - past, present, and future in mind.
The doors to our Ecosystem will open in March 2022. Click here to be notified when we're live!
Milwaukee - The start of a new calendar year is an opportunity for individuals to set new goals and implement new techniques to improve their lifestyle.
For Deonte Tatum and his Above and Beyond the Playground family, the new year has been an effort to present the program’s student-athletes with as many unique opportunities as possible both on and off the court.
While the first two months of the year have provided the staff with enough to do, including an exciting 8th grade Boys Basketball tournament that took place in the ABP gym on Martin Luther King Day, the man who’s visionary leadership and experience has been the backbone of Above and Beyond the Playground since its launch seven years ago, is not settling in and taking his foot off the gas. He’s doing just the opposite.
Deonte Tatum isn’t much interested in discussing his career on the AAU circuit in which he was a member of 3 National Championships wearing purple for the Playground Warriors. You’re lucky to get much our of him in recalling his role as a member of 2 WIAA State Championship teams at Milwaukee Vincent where he was a 2nd Team All-State Selection. And if you don’t have prior knowledge that he spent the majority of his collegiate career on the island of Oahu as a point guard at the University of Hawaii, then you aren’t going to hear about it. At least you won’t find your fill of Milwaukee high school hoops nostalgia in talks with Tatum.
That’s not for lack of lack of accolades, clearly. Nor is it a lack of gratefulness Tatum has when it comes to those years of his life. “It isn’t about me,” the face of ABP asserts.
What is It about?
Tatum’s answer is far deeper and satisfying than the cliché response which is of course “the kids”. It’s far more promising.
In biology the word ecosystem refers to an area where plants and animals come together to make a bubble of life and support each other. For Tatum, the ecosystem is indeed that - but also what kept him propped up and provided him with exactly what he needed to maintain when the winds of change shifted for him as a young student-athlete.
The implementation of an all new ecosystem at Above and Beyond the Playground is not just another experiment. The four-pronged vision will aim to provide the program’s participants with an increased sense of balance from which they approach their everyday life in the area of academics, athletics, health & wellness, and community.
An influx of resources will be made available to student-athletes in four key areas that Tatum believes not only improve a kids chances of being successful and enjoying their experience at present-day, but aim to build character in areas that promote the makings of a better human being all together. One that Tatum hopes will one day be giving back to the very city that he has returned to and invested so much in.
“We’re doing a whole lot more because we know more. Science has expanded all of these areas of focus and these kids deserve to have as many resources as possible made available to them. This ecosystem is our response to that.”
Academics is a core component of any successful program, and is close to the staff at ABP because throughout the course of many of their journey’s they witnessed individuals who had either a great desire or ability to play sports and were unable to do so because they came up short in the classroom. Our Ecosystem makes as many resources available as possible in the area of academics to eliminate the gap.
Athletics will aim to continue the level of quality training that Student-Athletes see each day, provide educational opportunities in areas like injury prevention, improve and increase on the emphasize of principles like sacrificing ones self for the greater good of the team, and increased exposure for athletes.
Health & Wellness brings opportunities with activities such as yoga, hiking, meditation, deep breathing, nutrition, and more to improve the mind, body and soul in a way conducive to the other components of our ecosystem.
Community is an area of the ecosystem where student-athletes will be introduced to more opportunities to participate in initiatives and efforts while becoming leaders themselves in mentoring programs and various volunteer opportunities.
To Tatum, the idea of introducing student-athletes within his own program to an idea they previously didn’t know about, is a very personal one -- one that he has experienced himself and one that he knows can be the difference between an individual continuing on with a sport, or cashing it all in for something far less productive and potentially dangerous.
While away from home for his first time ever at Indian Hills Community College in Iowa, Tatum met a friend of the program who would introduce him to the idea of deep breathing. To the 19 year-old Tatum at the time, it may as well have meant taking a breath before launching a 3 from 27 feet. He shared, “Where I grew up I saw folks deal with stress by getting high. If a young man or woman in our program has seen the same things, they’re liable to turn to those same things if they experience stress of their own. Learning about deep breathing was a very significant event in my development as a collegiate student-athlete and in molding me as a person. I remember sitting in Ottumwa, Iowa and thinking wow, I’ve got a lot more control over the way I react to stress than I thought I did.”
Tatum is dedicated to providing the student-athletes who become part of Above and Beyond The Playground with a better overall experience. One that they would have not had otherwise. That said he is a strong believer that all kids learn, grow and respond differently.
The implementation of this ecosystem increases the number of resources available and is undoubtedly a robust specific step the program is taking to diversify itself and increase the programs overall effectiveness.
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