Rhonda Crommarty of West Oak Lane and Kelli Lewis of East Falls sat in the stands of the Imhotep Institute Charter High School gymnasium on Saturday watching their sons play basketball while learning how to take a stand against bullying.
“You hear so much about kids being bullied, and it can lead to other things like suicide,” said Crommarty, who brought her 13-year-old son. “It’s scary.”
Lewis, who brought her 9- and 14-year-old sons added, “Bullying happens in and outside of the schools. People don’t realize that. This is a good cause. It teaches our kids about being on a team and working together.”
A three-day event
The all-day basketball games were part of “Hoops Against Bullying,” a three-day event for boys between the ages 8 and 17 who represented teams from around the Philadelphia area.
The gathering was created by the Northwest CommUnity Coalition for Youth (NCCY), a nonprofit group that works with youth in Northwest Philadelphia.
One of the referees was Troy Allen, an NCCY anti-bullying specialist who took charge of organizing the event. He said they wanted to reach out to kids over the summer to jumpstart the message for the new school year.
“We picked basketball because sports teaches team building,” said Allen. “Everything from passing the ball to helping a team member make a shot — it’s all a part of working together. I tell them you have to learn how to be a team player against bullying. It takes more than one person to stop a bully.”
An event flyer spoke about messages of respect, sportsmanship, teamwork and leadership.
“These are all key characteristics to building character and confidence — key qualities that help counteract bullying behavior ,” read the flyer. “As we all know, the element of bullying has permeated our schools and many other places where young people are gathered in Philly.”
Spreading the anti-bullying message
Darlene Elliott, hotline volunteer for NCCY, said this was the first year for the basketball games. She has hopes that the event will expand each year and involve girls teams as well.
“This is about building team camaraderie,” explained Elliott. “We’re bringing teams from the area together. There are groups here from Chester County and West Philly.”
Team “Blue Devils” hailed from Cherashore Recreation Center, located at 851 W. Olney Ave. Coaches Calvin Lewis and Anthony Fair said their team embraced the positive message of the event.
“It starts here, right here on the court,” Lewis said. “We teach the kids about being a team player and respecting one another.”
Player Kyair Dungee explained that “playing basketball is about teamwork and working hard.” Teammate Amir Shields agreed in saying, “You learn about friends and basketball and having fun.”
Jamie Ross, dean of students at Robert Vaux High School in North Philadelphia was in the stands to support students from his school.
“They get to know each other on the court. It prevents animosity that they may have when they get to meet kids from other neighborhoods,” said Ross. “Playing basketball is a vehicle for the anti-bullying message.”