What started as a modest family project, ten years ago in Netanya, Israel, has developed into an impactful, international program empowering at-risk youth through the sport of basketball.
The program’s initial concept was simple – provide the impoverished children of Netanya with free tickets to the division II, professional basketball team’s home games. The goal was to engage the entire community, leaving no child behind, including those who could not afford tickets, in addition to creating a lasting fan base for the Netanya basketball club.
The ticket program was successful, but we knew we could and needed to do more for the community. We came across a news article about a great individual, David Lasday, who was running a basketball program in Washington, D.C. We asked Lasday to join our team. He agreed and then began, what is now, our weekly Hoops For Kids program. He connected with the basketball team, the city, and after-school centers to start a program that would create an impact for the children we worked with. We also realized incorporating the professional basketball team, and their respective players, was an essential part of the process, specifically because of our intended demographic. The majority of at-risk youth in Netanya are comprised of first-generation Ethiopian immigrants, living in poverty, and have issues integrating into society. Many do not have role models, let alone role models who look like them (as Israel is a predominantly white population.) When our participants receive the opportunity to be mentored by the professional basketball players through the program, it is typically the first time they see someone that looks like them in a professional and successful arena and thus, our slogan “One City, One Family, One Team” emerged.
After two years of our mentoring program, and with the success of our program in Netanya, we knew we had to take Hoops for Kids to other cities in Israel. Over the course of time, we made solid relationships with different teams among different cities in Israel and expanded our programming to reach more at-risk children through informally teaching life skills during our basketball clinics. During the first year, Hoops for Kids successfully expanded into Katzrine, Ashdod, Ashkelon, and Tel Aviv.
Realizing our program’s rising success, we decided to partner with TAG International to bring our program to at-risk children in third-world countries. TAG International specializes in adapting Israeli programs to fit the needs of third-world communities. TAG partnered with SlumsDunk to bring our program to Nairobi, Kenya, started by professional basketball player Bruno Cerella, to find the children to work with and partners on the ground. The program was a huge success - impacting over 1,200 kids in the first year. With that momentum behind us, we expanded yet again into Kisumu, Kenya. The TAG International HFK program focuses on teaching life skills relevant to the kids they work with. Those skills included; water conservation, safe sex, and AIDS prevention.
In August of 2016, with the guidance of TAG, we introduced our Israeli coaches and kids to the Hoops for Kids Playbook focusing on teaching one life skill each month. The life skills we focus on are meant to help our kids both on and off the court. Our ultimate vision and goal is to provide at-risk children, all over the world, with the tools they need to break the chains of global poverty by empowering them with life skills through the sport of basketball. Through the love of the game, and our profound devotion to the success of future generations, Hoops for Kids intends to expand its reach and provide children with the space to flourish. Our program seeks to actively move toward the long-term goal of expanding, working with more professional teams, and developing in to the NBA Cares of the world, helping as many at-risk youth as possible.
Hoops for Kids is made possible by the Kids Connect Network program and Kids Connect Charitable Fund – a registered 501(c)3 nonprofit.
Hoops For Kids is an international program serving the at-risk youth community and aims to teach essential life skills to support children in becoming healthy, successful, and community-oriented individuals through the sport of basketball. Our goal is to expand our program across the globe so that nearly every community with a professional basketball team has access to our program.
Basketball & Mentoring
Basketball is a universal sport - it speaks a language everyone understands. Basketball holds the power to unite and give children opportunities to learn and grow. Through practice and playing on a team, children are able to learn about communication and cooperation. Through mastering a particular basketball skill, making a bad pass, or losing a game, children learn about resiliency in life, regrouping, and not giving up. We have seen, firsthand, that one game of basketball can teach a lifetime of lessons. We capitalize on using one of the most fun games in the world to teach empowering and vital life skills to at-risk children (living below the accepted poverty level).
Athletes as mentors: Our professional athletes provide the perfect platform for mentoring. These are individuals who have been through their own share of hardships, on and off the court, to get to where they are now. They can use their own life lessons, like how they learned to believe in themselves and tackle challenges and the skills they adapted to navigate life at home, in the classroom, on the court, etc. and teach these lessons to our children. The professional athletes have surely reaped the benefits of mentorship in the form of a coach or even a teammate - they know just how valuable and impactful mentorship is to youth. Mentorship is a two-way street - those who mentor reap just as many benefits, if not more, than those whom they mentor. Being a mentor gives professional players the opportunity to give back, self reflect, and use the opportunity as a tool to develop their own coaching skills. We encourage players to use this mentoring opportunity as an experience they can add to their resume in the future, should they decide to retire and coach someday.
One City. One Family. One Team.
We define life skills as a learning of skill or skills that is necessary for full participation in everyday life. We focus on teaching life skills that are tailored to each community with the end goal being to empower youth and help them blossom into healthy, successful, community-oriented individuals with a strong sense of self. The circumstances of poverty leave children at-risk to much more than their basic needs - children living in these conditions are less likely to succeed in school and face challenges interacting with others and setting life goals. We teach these life skills in a fun way that help them blossom in hopes that these life skills resonate in a way which will help them to break the barriers of their circumstance. We consider all they are up against and try to give the tools they need to overcome - tools they may not otherwise have the opportunity to gain.
Often times, our clinics provide the only after-school activity outside of the classroom. Although it is only once a week, it is typically the only time our youth experience a structured physical activity. This is an added bonus for us - it teaches our youth about staying active and that being active is fun. The teachers of our after-school centers enjoy it as well, as it allows them to take a short break from their regular activities to catch their breath and regroup.
Working with professional basketball teams is the most exciting part for the children, but it is also beneficial for the teams as a social initiative, a way to garner lifelong fans from the kids and their respective families. It is also beneficial for the professional players as a way to use their status for good - to give back to the community they currently reside and work in.
The Hoops For Kids Playbook was created in 2016 to help drive our mission in a more structured manner. Each coordinator receives the Playbook, which contains detailed lesson plans for each week, with each month focusing on a different life skill. The life skills we teach through basketball include:
Communication and Listening Skills
Each lesson includes a discussion, before and after the basketball activities, centered around the life skill of the month. For example, in January we taught 'responsibility.' In the beginning, students were explained what that life skill is about, and then they played a game to help them see how that life skill can guide them through the activity. At the end of the lesson, the students talked about how 'responsibility' is a life skill they can use not only on the court but off the court, too, whether it be in their classroom, among friends, or in their home life. At the end of the month, there is a general overview, and at the end of the season our coordinators briefly go over each lesson plan again.
Our goal is to make the lessons engaging and fun and also have the lesson resonate with the children for the rest of their lives.
Who Is ?
Tag believes in the power of knowledge to change lives. They specialize in adapting proven expertise to new situations. Tag International Development shares the best of Israeli expertise with vulnerable communities by delivering sustainable, scalable, and measurable impact, benefiting thousands of people over the past year alone. Knowledge is a resource that does not deplete with use but increases each time it is shared. At Tag, they believe in knowledge as a catalyst for development which sustains and grows. To date, Tag has delivered 25 projects in 12 counties across South Asia, East Africa, the Middle East, and the former Soviet Union, focused primarily on sustainable livelihoods through agriculture, women’s health through reduction of maternal and infant mortality, and youth empowerment through mentoring and skills.
Their modus operandi are expertise, innovation, collaboration.
They collaborate with established local partners to identify needs and priorities. They combine local knowledge with external expertise to stimulate innovation along with a holistic and sustainable development strategy. Tag works with established local partners to identify pressing development needs and assists in devising, planning, and implementing creative and effective developmental programs. By collaborating with impressive knowledge partners, Tag leverages valuable expertise to build and harness local capacity.
In Nairobi, Kenya, Tag has established a basketball-based youth empowerment project, working with local basketball teams to instill vital life skills in at-risk and vulnerable youth ages 8-15. Based on the success of Hoops for Kids in Israel, Tag has brought this project to Kenya in collaboration with Kids Connect Network.
The project is establishing after-school centers, educational basketball clinics, and mentoring programs along with providing athletic equipment and coaching. The project is run in conjunction with Slums Dunk, a youth-basketball project operating in the Kenyan slums.
Since launching in the Mathare slum in Nairobi, Kenya, in February 2015, over 700 youth have participated. Parents, teachers, and the kids themselves have seen the transformative impact of teaching life skills to at-risk youth through basketball.