All roads to Near West’s 5th Annual Safe Summer League Championship led to the United Center in 2012
With over 3,000 in attendance for Near West's 5th Annual Safe Summer League at the United Center, young people and their parents who chose “safe streets” and healthy alternatives this summer gained a special recognition for their efforts on Thursday, August 16, when three former Chicago Bulls presented the championship awards to the winners of this year’s Safe Summer Basketball League Tournament, marking the end of the three month summer basketball program at the United Center.
Founded in 2007 by the Near West Side CDC, the Safe Summer Basketball League has provided a safe alternative to youth, from May through August, as young people and their families flock to Phoenix Academy to play basketball rather than hanging out on the streets or in the parks. Thirty-two teams consisting of 320 players, young men and women, play four days a week, Monday through Thursday, affording the program to make a strong impact with youth in the West Haven community by providing team building and other life skills. Since the program began, public violence, homicides and aggravated battery has decreased in West Haven.
“This is the fourth incident free year. Not even an argument takes place during these games,” said Earnest Gates, Executive Director of the Near West Side CDC. “We’re averaging over 650 people as spectators every night.”
The Basketball League is part of the West Haven Sports Clubs, who mentors young men and women over the summer using sports as a way to connect with them. Other programs, which take place throughout the year, include dance, music, baseball, softball, boxing, archery, math and science, and the Young Entrepreneur Program, which teaches business management. In addition, children can attend a referee training program that leads to a referee certification. All of the programs include mentoring sessions with peer discussions and the option for individual-based mentoring. The West Haven Sports Club serves over 400 youth a year.