IN THE D: Youth Sports Leagues Teach More than Athletics

By: Scott Davis | November 18, 2014

Children are the future. Quite literally, some of today’s youths will potentially grow up and become opinion leaders, executives, doctors or even the president of the country. When you take a minute to think about it, one must also consider the importance of cognitive development for youths, and how important it is to raise them in a proper environment. It is so easy to forget about how many children do not have these privileges.

Athletics can be a great avenue to connect youths with a positive environment and help to provide them with the tools for a bright future. Sports teach us a lot: hard work, being team-oriented, camaraderie, determination, perseverance and more. The list is endless. Listed below are some organizations in the area whose mission is to make a difference for underprivileged youths, using athletics as a vehicle.

Detroit PAL, 111 W. Willis St., Detroit, is a nonprofit organization impacting the lives of more than 11,000 children annually. The nonprofit has roots dating back to 1969 and is a merger between Detroit’s Police Athletic League and Think Detroit. While not all 11,000 children are considered underprivileged, Detroit PAL has three goals for all of its youngsters, no matter their background: to build young people with high character, to teach young people how to lead an active and healthy lifestyle and to teach young people how to give back to their community. Detroit PAL offers ten sports, including football, soccer, basketball, cheerleading, baseball and more. Each sport varies, but leagues may start as early as age 4 and go all the way up to age 18. In addition to all of the children it serves, Detroit PAL also trains and certifies more than 1,500 volunteers to become coaches and mentors. The main agenda here is to create a safe and supportive place for kids of all backgrounds to play.

Redford Township Junior Athletic Association plays games in several locations throughout Redford, mainly in schools and community centers. Its motto is “Keeping boys and girls off the streets and in their game,” which gives you a sense of the mission of this nonprofit. For more than 50 years, RTJAA has been providing athletic opportunities for youth. Both boys and girls participate in basketball leagues here. The “Minor” division is for ages 7 through 10, while the “Major” division is for ages 11 through 15. All participants are guaranteed playing time and RTJAA provides a unique blend of developmental teaching with competitive play, teaching children not only the values of teamwork and togetherness, but also teaching them life lessons and life skills. Whether you are a seasoned pro or playing in your first season, players of all skill levels are welcomed.

Downtown Youth Boxing Gym, 4760 Saint Aubin St., Detroit, currently maintains 65 students (with roughly 150 more on a waiting list), ages 8 to 18. DYBG puts its students through a strict boxing program, while also providing assistance with and putting a high emphasis on academics, and providing a connection to the community through voluntary services. The 501(c)3 organization has its students hit the books before they even lace up their boxing gloves. DYBG helps kids that come from different backgrounds and assists even those coming from the toughest of circumstances get through their life challenges. In addition to all of the boxing techniques and disciplines taught by coach Carlo Sweeney or “Coach Khali” as he is known, students are also tutored. Not only are the children benefiting from this program, so are their parents. Parents witness or even take place in some of the hands-on coaching, and watch their children succeed. NBC Nightly News recently featured DYBG.

It’s no secret that there are parts of Detroit and the metropolitan area that have fewer resources than others. It is also no secret that some children are more underprivileged than others. But organizations like the ones mentioned above, and others throughout the area, are working to give children every opportunity to succeed. There isn’t anything better than witnessing people, especially young people, overcome challenges when the odds are not in their favor. Keep up the good work, Detroit.