At the Sauld Center on the far South Side, young hoopers come together to play ball.
It’s coach Darrelle Banks’ first year participating in Hoops in the Hood.
“I’ve had the privilege of having coaches and mentors who instilled in me and poured in me some valuable things as far as being able to become self-sufficient, and basketball happens to be the avenue for me,” Banks said.
Banks grew up on the city’s South Side and is one of many community leaders taking part in the basketball camp.
“My job is to try to get them to have an understanding of the cohesiveness between life and basketball because they go hand and hand actually,” Banks said.
Hoops in the Hood started back in 2006 and is aimed at providing safe spaces for kids to play basketball.
“I look forward to this every year because it highlights a lot of the amazing things that grassroots organizations across the city are doing. You always hear about all the bad things happening, but there’s a lot of really good organizations within the city,” said Alex Anaya, a coach and recreational program officer at Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC).
He runs a basketball league in Pilsen.
“One of the biggest things about Hoops in the Hood is that a lot of the programming that occurs is outside. We are inviting the entire community to participate and be part of the event so they can see the youth are doing something positive,” Anaya said.
Every year Local Initiatives Support Corporation partners with 17 neighborhoods and organizations within those communities to host summer leagues where hundreds of kids take part. Anaya says the program goes beyond basketball skills.
“Keeping kids safe and keeping them out of trouble, you’re saving lives,” Anaya said. “While you have them at the gym you [have got to] save their mindsets about everything including academics, athletics, how to treat their parents and teachers, and their communication with law enforcement, which is one of the things we are trying to highlight this summer.”
Whether it’s at a local gym or an outside court, participants go through various drills, whether it’s to have fun with friends, or improve their skills.
“I want to be the first girl to play actual games in the NBA. To show other girls that it’s possible,” said Sofia Khan, 10.
The program only happens in the summer but community leaders are working to have camps run all year long.
“If we can have this year-round, I think we can directly have an impact on violence. I think we will help reduce violence,” Anaya said.
For Banks, coaching kids not only gives him an outlet to give back but also an opportunity to help boys and girls develop goals on and off the court.
“I would tell him or her to not be so hung on what’s happening to you but change your mindset and understand what’s happening for you,” Banks said. “All the things you are experiencing are to teach you and show you who you are capable of being.”
In August, Hoops in the Hood will host a city-wide tournament where kids from 17 neighborhoods can come and compete.