Local athletes come together to teach life skills to St. Louis youth


ST. LOUIS – Rayshawn Simmons is a professional basketball player. Kendal Smith was a former student-athlete. They are cousins, St. Louis natives, and co-founders of Hoops & Beyond, a new organization that strives to teach players much more than just how to shoot and dribble.

The Webster Groves High School alumni want to help create a brighter future for kids in the community. Although they are both successful in their own right, they know far too well the challenges kids and teens face growing up in a high crime city like St. Louis.

They’ve experienced the pressures. They’ve experienced the lack of resources. They’ve seen friends and peers go down dangerous paths that some were never able to escape.

Basketball was their escape as it is for many other kids in St. Louis, but they want the players they work with to know basketball is not the end all be all.

Hoops & Beyond will host their first camp on Oct. 10 and 11 at the YEMA Center near Jefferson Barracks, but their focus is bigger than basketball.

“Hoops & Beyond is a tool and platform we’re using to teach the game of life through basketball – teaching kids how to use basketball as a weapon and looking at like as a game,” said Smith.

Special guests and keynote speakers, including some professional and former collegiate players, will be attending the camp to talk to campers about real life skills.

They will cover topics from mental and physical health to financial literacy.

“Especially coming from St. Louis, which is a small city with a high crime rate, we need to develop the kids to have a strong mind to make it out and make a difference in the community,” said Majun Bates, the CEO of Big Guard Basketball and a mental health keynote speaker.

Former St. Louis University Women’s Basketball star Devonna Smith will discuss the importance of financial literacy.

“Understanding and knowing the importance of a credit score, the importance of intellectual property at a young age and being able to build that at a young age is super important,” she said.

Business professionals from the area will also be hosting a career fair to help expose campers to new careers outside of basketball.

Simmons says the motto at Hoops & Beyond is “unite the collective, unleash the power of the collective.” He hopes that their efforts through this organization will empower our youth to take control of their futures and that they will then take the knowledge they’ve gained and share it with others to help build a better St. Louis.

“There are power in numbers,” he said. “If you’re a service provider we want your help. If you have something to offer these kids; I don’t care who you are or what you’re beliefs are; if you want to help these kids – we want to do it with you.”

The camp is open to players grades 8 through 12. You can register your child the Hoops & Beyond website. If you are in a financial deficit, there are possible sponsorship options for your child. You can contact Hoops & Beyond for more information.

If you are in a position to where you can help sponsor a child, please contact Hoops & Beyond.

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