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Hoops in the Hood: More than a game

As the jubilant members of the East Garfield Park basketball team celebrated, straining to touch the trophy they had just claimed, it was clear they had won more than a basketball game and a gold statue.

The 2010 Hoops in the Hood Cross-City Tournament winners for the major division also had won a victory for their neighborhood and the spirit of teamwork, sportsmanship and safe streets that’s a hallmark of the Hoops in the Hood program.

Photo: Ivan Villafuerte

This young man converts a lay-up during the Hoops in the Hood citywide championship.

The fourth annual tournament, on August 21 at Seward Park, featured 250 players from teams in 10 Chicago neighborhoods, competing in three divisions: major (15 to 19 years old), minor (11 to 14) and pee-wee (8 to 10). East Garfield Park took home the major division title, Little Village won the minor division, and the pee-wee champs hailed from North Lawndale.

But winning wasn’t the only triumph on a hot Saturday afternoon. Just being at the tournament, which was the culmination of summer-long basketball leagues where athletes, parents and community members reclaimed the streets of their neighborhoods, was a significant achievement.

“Programs like Hoops in the Hood bring communities together, which is so important when many people worry about violence in our streets,” said Keri Blackwell, senior program officer for LISC/Chicago, which organizes and supports Hoops in the Hood. “There are so many young people in Chicago looking for safe and fun activities, but often they have to overcome large obstacles to participate in them.”

Teams from Auburn Gresham, Back of the Yards, East Garfield Park, Englewood, Humboldt Park, Little Village, West Haven, North Lawndale, Pilsen and the Near North Side competed in the event, which was sponsored by State Farm.

Photo: Ivan Villafuerte

Spectators cheer on their championship players during the event, held Aug. 21 at Seward Park near Cabrini Green.

Ald. Walter Burnett (27th) welcomed the players, coaches and families to the tournament, which drew onlookers from the neighborhood. He praised the players’ dedication to teamwork, sportsmanship and nonviolence.

“This is more than just basketball,” Burnett said to the crowd. “It’s a positive, competitive outlet for youth.”

Hoops in the Hood is instrumental in bringing different neighborhoods together. Players said they appreciated the opportunity to interact with kids from different parts of the city.

“We’ve seen Hoops in the Hood consistently bring communities together to take a stand against violence,” Blackwell said. “The positive message sent by these athletes strengthens not only the community, but the entire city, as well.”

Hoops in the Hood is the keystone event of LISC/Chicago's Neighborhood Sports Chicago (NSC), a coalition of community organizations that use sports for youth engagement and community development. 

Photo: Ivan Villafuerte

Trophies glittered in the sun, but the biggest prize was the sense of community for people too often chased indoors by violence on the streets. See below for a slide show of photos from the 2010 Hoops in the Hood citywide championship.

Other NSC-supported events and programs include: softball leagues that bring healthy, structured competition to struggling neighborhoods; programs such as Chicago Run, which seek to combat pediatric obesity among Chicago Public Schools students; and programs such as Open Streets and Project Play, which allow residents of neighborhoods prone to violence to reclaim their streets for recreation, and social and civic engagement.

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