On Friday nights for seven weeks, youth from Toronto Community Housing neighbourhoods met at York University's Glendon Campus or the Toronto Pan Am Sports Centre for Midnight Madness Basketball.
The program, launched in 2013, provides about 90 youth aged 14 to 18 with four hours of structured basketball training and life skills education each week, keeping kids on the court and off the streets.
Midnight Madness Basketball players compete during a drill.
Midnight Madness Basketball supports both the physical and personal development of youth. In addition to on-the-court basketball drills, youth also participate in valuable life skills workshops.
Youth participating in a life skills workshop.
Some of the workshops used over the season were community involvement, financial literacy, values and decision-making, managing and avoiding conflict, planning and goal-setting and certifications and employment.
"The workshops speakers are very informed and provided insight about growing up and how they've made it far in their career," said Kwame, who participated for the first time. "I could really reflect on what the speakers were saying. I also found the basketball drills to be really competitive. I liked how they brought the different communities closer together, and allowed us to feel a sense of accomplishment."
The program allows participants to use the positive team environment of basketball as a tool of engagement and growth at a non-traditional hour.
Midnight Madness Basketball participants share smiles with staff during a certification presentation
"The program is giving youth an opportunity to get out of their comfort zone and play basketball with other youth from different communities," said Willians Herrada, Supervisor, Active Living Programs, Toronto Community Housing. "They share their experiences from their daily lives with each other, as well as staff, mentors and coaches."
During the fall season, nine community coaches and seven facilitators provided guidance and support to youth participants. With the staff dedication, and now in its third year, the program continues to be a success and has expanded to six communities: East Mall/West Mall Capri, Jane and Finch, Parma Court, Regent Park, Rexdale, and Willowridge.
For more information on the Midnight Madness Basketball program or how to register for the upcoming spring session, call 416-882-8465 or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org