How BGCMB Board Member Nik Tatum’s Gift Of A Pool Table Shows Westport Members Life Skills
Game On: Nik Tatum's donation of a brand-new Mizerak Dakota
billiard pool table to the Westport Club.
In a full circle moment, Boys & Girls Club alumnus and current board chair Nik Tatum donated the one item that made him want to keep coming back to the Club when he was a kid. He purchased a brand-new Mizerak Dakota Slate billiard pool table for our Westport Homes Club. At first glance, it appears to be a standard pool table with all the colorfully numbered spheres gathered in the triangular rack. Look again. This eight-foot-long addition to our Club provides a new dimension to BGCMB programming that does more than just improve a member’s pool skills.
“I wasn’t the best basketball player,” Nik Tatum, pictured here, says laughingly as he recounts his memories of the Boys & Girls Club near his home on the 2200 block of Guilford Avenue in the East Baltimore community of Barclay-Greenmount. “But pool was one of the options at the Club and I spent a lot of time during my two summers there just shooting pool. It was fun. When you’re playing pool, you’re sitting there for a while talking to someone and it gave me an opportunity to meet some new friends that I might have never met.” The game of pool also gave Nik a penchant for healthy competition that drove him to a very successful career in accounting.
The gamesroom is an important element of any Clubhouse. Many members can’t wait to play when they arrive and it’s in this safe, supportive atmosphere where our members learn important social skills like teamwork. According to Boys & Girls Clubs of America’s 2022 youth data, 41% of teens ages 13 and up have trouble going along with other people’s ideas and more than a third get frustrated if they can’t do something their way. To guide our members in these social exchanges, BGCMB staff members are there to manage play around four fundamentals: 1) Create a Physically and Emotionally Safe Space, 2) Develop A Consistent Routine, 3) Offer Developmentally Appropriate Choices and 4) Keep It Fresh. These principles create the perfect setting for the type of positive social growth Tatum once experienced and can now pay forward in the form of a new pool table.
“Even something as innocuous as a pool table provides a form of access that is very important. If it works and you get good at playing, it enhances your self-worth because someone may say to themselves: “I can do this”. At some point you can’t outrun or outjump everyone, but you can be creative and competitively outthink people—become savvy. For many of us, we need to stack the deck with as many skills as we can to be successful. That’s what I learned early in life and the pool table is another form of exposure for Club members.”
Modern Remodeling To The Rescue: Putting the table together was a large task all by
itself and we’re grateful to the team from Modern Remodeling Maryland for
devoting an afternoon to making sure that every screw and nail was
set in place before members arrived to the Club.
“Unlike games like football, basketball, and softball, you’re playing against yourself in pool. You find yourself really trying to get better the more you play it. There are a lot of lessons you can learn about life from pool as you sit around the table playing and talking with people.” This direct lesson of an extremely valuable life skill is one Nik Tatum is keen on giving to the members he diligently serves as a board member. "When you’re working with an organization like Boys & Girls Clubs of Metropolitan Baltimore, it should be less about what you want and more of what the organization needs. I’m just happy to be in the position to donate the new pool table to members of Westport because this was a great full circle moment.”
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