Devon Butler has played some serious basketball in his life — first in college and later as a pro in Europe. The sport was a way for him to escape a low-income, single-parent childhood and brought him enough success to carve out a better life for himself and his mom. But Butler’s career ended earlier than he’d expected and he was sent back to the States with his professional hoop dreams permanently in the rearview.
Back home, Butler took a gig training kids in the finer points of his beloved sport. What he found was a massive gap is what the kids wanted to learn and what they were being given. He knew they deserved comprehensive training and set out to find a way to make it a reality. At the same time, he recognized that there was a real lack of money but not a lack of motivation when it came to kids who wanted to play the game and parents who wanted to provide that outlet. When parents have to choose between keeping the lights on and getting their child a basketball trainer, the choice is always going to be the lights.
So Butler devised a way to circumvent parents having to make those sorts of choices: He created an app that trains kids and gives them real skill instruction — for free.
Butler’s Evolve Basketball app teaches aspiring hoopers the finer points of the game. He uses videos of pros to emphasize movement and help teach technique. Kids can watch, study, and reproduce the moves they see pros executing through the app. But Evolve Basketball is more than that.
The app offers kids well-rounded lives to aspire to — along with the tools to actually make a high school and then college teams. That means discipline, health, nutrition, and education. The point is more than creating basketball players, it’s creating all-around athletes who can get up and run every morning and build the endurance needed to play sports as a career. And then there are grades. The app offers homework and even SAT/ACT prep support to make sure kids can get those scholarships.
“If you’re big and strong, but don’t eat right … you’re not going to be in shape,” Butler says. “If you have the grades, but never work out in basketball … you’re not going to be good enough to get a scholarship.”
Butler created Evolve Basketball to be a comprehensive assistant — hitting every variable that might get thrown at a kid trying to make basketball a serious pursuit.
Butler also seems to understand that a youth spent pursuing basketball isn’t just about sacrifice and training. Kids need to socialize. So he integrated social media into the app so the kids stay focused while still staying connected.
“A lot of kids like to communicate with their friends and share videos — the big three, Instagram, Facebook, Twitter,” Butler explains. “So I figured if I put all these different aspects on there, they won’t leave outside the app.”
App users can share videos on their social feeds and even make their own videos of their progress and show off rewards they received for their accomplishments. This keeps the kids focused on what they need to be doing when it comes to training, without taking away from their social lives.
What’s amazing is that this app offers training from professional athletes for free. Download the app and you have a coach on your smartphone. In the real world, parents might have to pay hundreds of dollars per month for a similar program.
Butler’s app is providing a bridge for kids from all backgrounds, but especially those who just can’t afford the private coach price tag. Evolve Basketball’s co-founder Lafayette Julius points out, “Our app is filling the void and bridging the gap for underprivileged kids not being able to get out there and seek those resources to get better.”
21 percent of kids in America live below the federal poverty threshold. That’s one in five kids in America who can’t afford new sneakers, much less a trainer. Moreover, this app is putting health, diet, and physical training information directly into kid’s hands. That feels like a win given national stats show one in three kids are obese in America. Having access to this kind of information is a step in the right direction, regardless of whether or not any of its young users make the pros.
Through his program, Butler is helping keep kids healthy, educated, and training them in a sport they love in ways that’s never been done before. No matter how you cut it, that’s a step in the right direction and win for the kids — a win that he could have used when he was young, and a win that today’s kids are sure to appreciate.