Malik Tape, 27, is currently the sports director for the Columbia North YMCA, located at 1400 North Broad St. Tape runs a city wide program called Get Hype Philly! that promotes children’s health and development. He’s doing everything he can to give back to the city of Philadelphia.
How did you get your start in the community that lead to where you are today?
I grew up in a very under served, poverty stricken community. I grew up at 13th and Catherine, which at the time was labeled “Saigon.”
I transitioned across the tracks and lived there on the other side from age three to 26. I began my start with the YMCA at age four. My mother worked at the front desk. I did all the programs, summer camp, all that stuff until I was 19 when I first went away to college. Then, when I (decided) I didn’t like it, I dropped out, and went home. I still had my membership, and I was just doing some volunteering at the Y. I was mainly helping with basketball stuff with the kids, and the YMCA noticed.
After four months, I became the gym monitor, and that is where the story starts.
What made you want to get involved with children and the teens in Philadelphia?
Coming from a underserved community, we didn’t have a lot. But we had adults who cared and did stuff for us. We didn’t know that they didn’t get paid to do it. We thought that they were supposed to do it.
As I got older, around 15 or 16, I started to see that they didn’t have to help us, and no one was doing it then. I went to the Y, played basketball with the kids and I thought, maybe I might want to do something to help the kids.
I went to college first because “that’s what your supposed to do,” but it didn’t work out for me. I came back to the YMCA, resumed work, and got promoted five times in six years. What drives me is the fact that I can change a youth’s life, even if it is just little bit. I can put change in them and motivate them. The motivation the YMCA fed me helps me feed it back to the youth.
How important do you think sports are in society today?
Sports are extremely important. The skills that I’ve acquired through sports have helped me a lot. My teamwork, my being able to identify that something is wrong and not scold it but help fix it, relying on others, and confidence. The confidence you get from sports allow you to go out and work very hard for things that you need.
A lot of people think that sports are just for jocks or that it’s just a popularity thing, when in reality it keeps you fit and keeps your mind healthy. A lot of people don’t understand how greatly sports benefit your mind.
I don’t stress. People tell me that is impossible but I tell them that it’s very possible! I have a job that allows me to do what I want to do and I live in an environment where it helps you to be healthy. I work at a gym, so naturally I have four percent body fat. I get to work on my craft that I love, basketball.
Sports and life go hand in hand, just as education does. If you’re extremely educated and make a lot of money, but you die at age 50 because you have no health proponent in your life, then did you really live a good life?
What is the most fulfilling thing about your job?
Making people smile. Not just the youth, but making everybody smile.
You see so much on social media – although I don’t use it – that exposes so many negative things that you don’t see in everyday life, like kids and their parents doing stupid things and getting criminal charges. You see kids doing ridiculous things. The fact that I can come into the Y and impact different age groups every day of the week, from the time they learn how to walk, to the time when they need assistance walking, is the most fulfilling part.
But also putting a smile on people’s faces, especially during hard times, is why I come to work.
What is your favorite sport to play?
My favorite sport to play and teach is basketball but my favorite sport to watch is football. It was always the sport I wanted to play but I didn’t quite have the body type for it, unless we’re talking about flag football.
What do you take away from your job at the YMCA?
It goes back to knowing what you can do. It’s your timeline. You’re born, you go to grade school, you go to college, you do something great, you retire and then you die.
That’s basically what everyone’s timeline consists of and you fill the time in between. So my work period doesn’t feel like work. That’s why I work here, because I get to play while helping people. I get to see how I’m impacting the youth and adults in the community. It has an excellent effect on people. We have something for everyone.
We don’t get paid much, so you have to do something outside the Y. Fortunately for me, I’m good with my hands and I do contracting. I have my own contracting business. So, not only can I impact people’s lives at the Y but I can also make their living conditions better and fix homes.