2020 brought various programming challenges at Kids in the Game, and especially to KING Hoops, our competitive basketball team. During the height of the pandemic we needed to make sure we were still providing the same quality services for our student-athletes’ who were adjusting to attending school online and being stuck inside for months.
We continued our typical services over the summer and into the fall through virtual check-ins with all 71 of our KING Hoops players on both academic progress, but also mental health and future planning. We were also able to host small group sessions in our office space for our players that were struggling academically and needed 1:1 tutoring. This allowed us to keep in touch with our student-athletes, offer the support needed, as well as prepare for a safe and successful spring season.
This past Spring we were ecstatic to be able to bring our KING Hoops program back in person. We held tryouts the first week of March following the CDC’s guidelines and assembled our 13U, 14U, 15U, 16U, and 17U teams. Collectively our program was composed of 82% returners, a big accomplishment after not being able to have a season the previous year. Practices started up in March and ran smoothly into late July thanks to a partnership with Leman Manhattan Preparatory School.
We had a very successful AAU season achieving a program best 67-25 record! We also brought home a total of seven tournament championships. It was also a special year for our 14U team who joined the Under Armour Rise Circuit. With a winning record in all UAA tournaments they definitely proved they belonged on a national stage.
One of the fundamental goals of Kids in the Game is to reduce inequities among NYC young people in access to: youth sports, classroom and out-of-school educational opportunities, college and/or other career training. Our Heisman project is an expression of our commitment to reducing inequities. Heisman returned in person this past Spring. We provide academic support, college preparation, and career readiness programming to all 71 of our KING Hoops players. Due to health and safety protocols, we were unable to utilize in person volunteers or outside tutoring services during our Spring session, but rather staffed the program with 3 full time team members.
Here at Kids in the Game we value program feedback, especially from the youth participating and benefitting from our programs. This summer we launched our Youth Leadership Council which was created so that all our student-athletes and program participants can express their thoughts and ideas and have a voice in program decision-making. Our council will meet routinely and will provide a feedback loop for our program directors. They also will work on various projects and initiatives having to do with programming.
We have partnered with Athletes for Hope who will provide and match both college and professional athletes for our council meetings. For our first meeting in July we were joined by Jazmine Fray, an Under Armour professional track athlete. Jazmine discussed the challenges that come along with being a college athlete, the importance of mental health, and discussed the importance of teamwork and being a part of a team. During this specific meeting we had our Youth Council work on compromise, teamwork, and communication skills in a jersey design workshop. Our council then started on a four-month project where they will be developing a business model. Each session we will have a guest speaker whether an athlete or entrepreneur to help them create their desired business.
Overall, it was a successful Spring for our KING Hoops program. Our players loved being back together face-to-face, and it was great for them to receive the support from our Heisman program. Currently all of our KING Hoops teams are participating in the Positive Influence Summer League. We are excited for KING Hoops to enter their fall league, as well as for school and Heisman to begin again in the fall.