Youth Recreational Sports: Keeping Kids in the Game

By: Ken Cross | December 10, 2012

If you were anything like me growing up, you loved everything about sports.  I would come home from school, get my homework done, then go outside to play various sports until the sun went down.

My favorite part about sports was playing on an organized basketball team every year.  Not only did I have fun playing the game, I learned its fundamentals and also about teamwork.

During the basketball season, I would wake up on Saturday morning and head off to my game.  I grew up in Redford Township and had the opportunity to play in an organized youth recreational league that has been around since 1957.

Redford Township Junior Athletic Association is offered to boys and girls between the ages of 7-18.  Their ultimate goal is to keep children off the streets and into the game where they will not only learn the game of basketball, but also skills that they can utilize throughout life.  Skills such as teamwork, hard work, confidence, and leadership are what the youth program focuses on.

As a former player and current volunteer of the program, I can assure that RTJAA strives to satisfy a youth’s need to grow up in an environment that will help them in the future.  Every child in the league is guaranteed playing time of a quarter and a half. This way, the program allows every child to be treated equal when it comes to competitive play.

The program is open to all surrounding areas with all of the coaches and board members being volunteers.  The parents and coaches who volunteer are passionate towards teaching and creating a place where children can have fun and learn at the same time.

Jill Bender has been part of RTJAA for over thirty years!  Jill is a current coach and board member of the program and not to mention, she started playing in the league at age 7.  Not only has she been with the league for numerous years, but her entire family has been keeping the tradition alive.

“My family was affiliated with the league as my dad coached my brothers in baseball as well as his daughters,” said Bender.  RTJAA offered both basketball and baseball to children until a few years ago when baseball interest in the area started to decline.

The biggest thrill for Bender is when she sees former players of the program succeed after their experience in RTJAA.  “Many of our children who play for our league have moved on to college and this league was a stepping stone for them.”

K’len Morris is a former player of the program who went on to have a successful basketball career where he was All-State in high school and then went on to play in college at the University of Michigan.  Morris gives a lot of credit to his former youth program.

“All of my accomplishments took a lot of hard work but none would have been possible without guidance from those who cared about me and were committed to my success,” Morris said.  “I thank the RTJAA for playing a major role in my learning of both the game of basketball and the game of life.”

RTJAA is in the process of signing new children up for the upcoming 2012-13 season that starts in November.  For more information about the youth sports program or to sign up for the program, visit www.RTJAA.com.

If you aren’t from around the Redford area, there are multiple cities that offer youth programs in Metro Detroit.

The Livonia Junior Athletic League is open to ages 8-17 that reside in the Livonia or Clarenceville School Districts.  The emphasis of the league is placed on promoting sportsmanship, citizenship, and the physical development of all youths.  For more information about the program, visit www.ljal.com.

Royal Oak’s recreational program is open to youths that are interested in football, soccer, baseball, softball, and hockey.  The Recreation Department is dedicated to providing residents a variety of year-round recreation opportunities that are responsive to your needs, are enjoyable to your families and contribute to your physical and mental well-being.  For more information about the program, visit www.ci.royal-oak.mi.us.

The Troy/Rochester area also has a youth sports program that specializes in sportsmanship and learning the fundamentals of each sport.  The sports to choose from are baseball, basketball, cheerleading, flag football, soccer, and lacrosse.  For more information and to register, visit www.i9sports.com.

If you aren’t near these areas, don’t give up!  Contact your local community center to receive information on youth sports programs in your area!