For High Point youth, the end of summer signals a return to school for a hopeful year of learning, friendships, and growth experiences. However, it also traditionally signals a conclusion to DNDA’s Summer Youth Program, including its soccer and basketball team sports programs.
DNDA’s team sports programs are beginner-friendly pathways for youth, especially young children, to learn how to play their favorite sports in a reasonably competitive and supportive atmosphere. While matches offer picture-worthy highlights, day-to-day practices compose the bulk of youths’ formative experiences because they allow young players to discover their why. And just as every youth is different, so too are their motivations. For Abubakr, a 9-year youth soccer player from High Point, his favorite part of DNDA’s soccer program is its coaches. As an intermediate player, he relies on his coaches for direction and encouragement during practices. When asked about his coaches, he states, “My coaches push me. When I feel like I can’t do something, they say try.” For 10 and 9 year old sisters Tasnim and Sirkenan, youth soccer is a pathway to play as their mother and especially their father, himself a talented player as a young man in Ethiopia, had done as youth themselves. And Tasnim and Sirkenan’s motivation? “To be better than him.”
DNDA’s why is to provide youth and families the opportunities and support they need to lead healthy and thriving lives. With input from youth, caretakers, and coaches, DNDA applied for and successfully received a King County Parks Youth and Amateur Sports Grant in mid-2020 to extend our young athletes’ access’ to sports during the fall and spring. After a hiatus in 2020 and hybrid programming in 2021 due to the pandemic, in-person sports programming resumed this summer and fall. With funding from King County Parks, DNDA again partnered with Intercity Soccer League, a BIPOC-led grassroots sports organization dedicated to providing underserved King County youth the mentorship and resources necessary to develop as skillful soccer players and promising young adults. Thanks to our partnership with King County Parks and Intercity Soccer League, DNDA hosted practices for 70+ youth athletes from June to September, hoping to resume programming in Spring 2023.
Additionally, DNDA partnered with E&F Youth Sports to enhance South King County youths’ access to basketball programming. E&F Youth Sports is a BIPOC-led sports organization that places a premier emphasis on positive youth development in and outside of the court. For season three, E&F Youth Sports organized a round-robin style tournament for 12 youth teams (and another 12 adult teams), which concluded with a knock-out playoff tournament. With games held at Auburn Fieldhouse in Auburn and Emerald City Basketball Academy in Kent, over 100 youth across South King County have competed in weekly competitions during the summer and fall, totaling 16 weeks of competitive play. Season 4 of E&F Youth Sports’ basketball program ends January 2023, with plans to re-partner again for upcoming seasonal tournaments in Spring 2023.
Making enriching activities, whether the arts, music, camping, sports, etc., accessible empowers youth to find meaning, hone their talents, and sustain positive relationships with other youth under the mentorship of supportive figures. And after all, as Asha, a High Point caregiver, encompasses succinctly, “I like the program because all the kids in the community come together to have a fun time no matter what the activity is.”