Top Scholar Hoops founder Charles Simmons Q&A
Posted on February 13, 2017
“We want kids to understand that student athlete comes first, basketball comes second to anything you do in the classroom.”
– Charles Simmons
I first met Charles in middle school at Hunt. At that time he went by Chucky. Now that we’re adults and living professional lives, I had the privilege of catching up with him at one of his super successful basketball clinics. With the motto, “It’s more than basketball,” kids here not only learn basketball skills, but life skills and the parallels between the two.
PSP: Tell us about Top Scholar Hoops?
Simmons: Top Scholar Hoops is our basketball training program. It started out as just basketball training but then we found that not all kids are going to want to play basketball. So we started Top Scholar Elite, which is about is being elite in any field that you choose to go into. You may want to be a doctor, lawyer, football/basketball player or movie star- it’s just about trying to do what you want to do at the highest level. If you want to be the best reader in your class then lets work hard to achieve that. Nothing comes without hard work. We talk a lot about professional athletes, the kids see them on TV and all they see are the highlights. They don’t see the hard work, attention to detail and late nights in the gym.
PSP: How did you come up with the concept for Top Scholar Hoops?
Simmons: There’s a need to teach the kids the parallels between the game and life. For example any job you go to you’re going to have to work hard and be on time- so we encourage kids to be on time. We want to show kids the parallels between life and the things they enjoy doing because there are a lot of parallels but they aren’t being taught. So we teach them that these same lessons that you’re applying to become a good basketball player can be applied to anything you do in life.
As adults we know that the chances of making it to the top are very slim but kids don’t see that, they just have a dream. We don’t want to discourage them from working toward their dream but we also want them to know that even if you don’t make it in that field- the same lessons that you learned when you were grinding and trying to become a professional basketball player or football player these are the same lessons that you will apply in your work force, family and just everyday life. We also encourage character building and being good teammates. You want to be someone people enjoy being around, so we try to encourage kids to take some of these same lessons they’re learning on the court and apply it to everyday life, school, church or wherever.
PSP: You have a huge turnout today. Why are your clinics so successful?
Simons: As a youth I was fortunate that my dad would drive me 2 hours twice a week to receive training by Travis DeCuire, he’s now the men’s head basketball coach at the University of Montana. He was my first coach that I had who was still young and could still play the game. From that point I knew what I wanted to do. I knew that if I didn’t make it professionally I still wanted to be apart of the game by helping kids- not only on the court but helping them win at life. That’s how this whole thing came about. I have a cousin who’s a 2-time state champion at Federal Way High School and it just started out as me wanting to help him and that expanded to people asking, “Who’s working with you?” Then he’d tell them who I was. We started out with maybe 5 kids in the gym and it kept growing. Today we have more than 100 kids in the gym and this is our first clinic that we did independently. We did clinics for Isaiah Thomas, Jamal Crawford, Nate Robinson and Damian Lillard. Those stars usually bring in about 300 kids so we’re use to big clinics but this is the first one we’ve thrown by ourselves so it’s a pretty big deal for us.
PSP: What advice do you have for professionals who aspire to do what you’re doing?
Simmons: The main thing is being passionate about it. With influence comes responsibility so we have a lot of people who reach out to us who want to help but we’re really selective about who we allow to help. We understand that we have a huge influence and that is a huge responsibility, anything we do these kids try to mirror. They try to emulate everything they see the coaches doing from how we talk to how we dress to how we even walk. So the main thing is having your head in the right place first and understand the message that you want to get to these kids. Because anybody can become a coach, it just depends on what level you want to be. Obviously the degrees you have play a role in getting a job at a university but you don’t need anything like that to become a coach at this level. This type of influence will last a lifetime, I remember being their age at TCC and being involved in camps and clinics. So the main thing is if your hearts in the right place that it’s nothing to start but what are you giving to the kid? What are you instilling in them? Are you big on character or is it just about winning so you can brag to other adults? A lot of people let little things stop them, “Oh I don’t have this or that,” but really you’re equipped with everything you need- just make that jump. Even if you don’t know the game that well you know how to be a good person. Because at this level right here that’s what it’s about. We spend about 20 percent of our time on the court but the rest of it is shaping a human being. It’s not just about what’s happening on the court, that’s why our motto at Top Scholar is, “It’s bigger than basketball” because it is on so many different levels.
PSP: So what’s next for you and Top Scholar Hoops?
Simmons: Expanding the brand the right way and trying to reach more kids. Not only in our community but outside as well and sharing the message that it’s bigger than basketball. This year we want to reach as many kids as possible. We will be running Isaiah Thomas’s camps and clinics. At the end of the day basketball is only going to last so long. When you’re done it’s going to come down to the relationships you’ve made and treated people over that time.
We’re also huge on academics. If you went to school with me I was known for basketball, but a lot of my years in high school was spent on the ineligible list. I don’t want kids to make the same mistakes I made. We bring in tutors for our kids struggling and we also ask that our kids bring in progress reports every quarter. If the kid isn’t doing that well we don’t kick them out of the program but they can not participate until those grades are up. We want kids to understand that student athlete comes first, basketball comes second to anything you do in the classroom and a lot of kids have that backwards. That is our main message.