By: Matthew Rodrigopulle
TORONTO—The National Basketball Youth Mentorship Program (NBYMP) named program mentor Kayla Alexander of the Minnesota Lynx the Mentor of the Year.
Alexander, who hails from Milton, Ont., joined the NBYMP as a mentor in 2019. This year, despite the global pandemic, she has dedicated many hours per week to consistently speaking to multiple youth in the NBYMP on a regular, one-on-one basis through email, audio calls, and video calls. This is in addition to her professional basketball career, which she spent playing in the WNBA’s playoff bubble this past summer and qualifying for the Tokyo Summer Olympics with Team Canada earlier this year in Belgium.
“It’s surreal and I’m kind of shocked, I’m thankful that people took the time to vote and think that I’m a decent mentor,” Alexander said. “The whole reason why I joined the NBYMP is because I love the heart behind it and I wanted to be a part of giving back and finding ways to pour into our youth.”
Alexander credits the mentors in her own life who helped her throughout her basketball journey as a personal motivator for giving back.
“It’s so important to help the next generation. I can just think back on my own life growing up and all the mentors, coaches, teachers, parents, my parents, adults who supported and helped me over the years, so I think it’s important to give back to your community and those coming up after you.”
Alexander says her favourite part of mentoring is getting to know the mentees and seeing how much they’ve grown during the course of their relationship, like with 16-year-old mentee Monica Wiehler. Wiehler says she’s very grateful to be able to call Alexander her mentor.
“Kayla is a great mentor, who is always there to help, encourage or even just to check in on me,” Wiehler said.
Wiehler says she and Kayla have stayed in touch ever since they first met over a year ago.
“Whenever we talk or have a call she is always so positive and outgoing which makes it so much easier to talk to her. She has been an awesome mentor since day one and I always look forward to our calls on zoom.”
During 2020, Alexander also co-authored a book called Women For The Win, alongside two other WNBA athletes and other prominent Canadian female professionals. Leading up to the Christmas holidays, she has done weekly giveaways over social media with prizes totalling up to over $1000.
10-year-old mentee Rose Hanna says Alexander has helped her a lot, including drawing her a birthday gift and giving her signed photos and other gifts. She says she really cares for Kayla and that she’s the best mentor ever.
“Kayla is very kind and listens to what I say and always encourages me in everything I do,” said Hanna. “She listens to my questions and answers them in a way that always makes me feel good about myself even when I make a mistake. She also does so much for encouraging all girls to play sports. She encourages me in my faith and encourages me to dream big, set goals and to not be afraid to make mistakes.”
Over 1500 youth across Canada have registered to the NBYMP; most of them looking to benefit from NBYMP’s free mentorship services from professional basketball athletes and university coaches. To register for free, visit www.nbymp.ca.
To support and to donate to the NBYMP, visit nbympfoundation.org/support-us/. Charitable tax receipts are provided to all donors for monetary donations and gifts of securities (eg. stocks and mutual funds).