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11th Annual Hoops in the Hood Cross-City Tournament

The Hoops Finals pitted teams from 16 Chicago neighborhoods against each other. They'd sharpened their skills through the summer, playing games in their communities.

Photos by Alonzo Alcaraz

On August 19, 2017, LISC Chicago hosted the 11th annual Hoops in the Hood Cross-City Tournament at Grant Park. Hoops in the Hood is a network of community-run basketball programs in Chicago empowering residents to reclaim their streets and promote peace. Each year, youth ages 8-19 play in the summer-long leagues that blend street basketball with other recreational activities designed to develop youth leadership skills and teamwork while fostering civic engagement and community building.

“Week by week, block by block, Hoops in the Hood has replaced neighborhood crime hotspots with safety zones. The games and block parties have brought residents together to celebrate their neighborhoods,” said Ashleigh Wayland, LISC Chicago’s communications officer. “Hoops in the Hood is a great reminder of just how important our work at LISC Chicago is, and an inspiration to keep working harder to make Chicago’s neighborhoods healthier and stronger.”

This year’s tournament marked the culmination of weekly games that took place in various neighborhoods all summer long. “I’m so jealous of whoever wins the major league,” an 8-year-old Little Village player said, dribbling between untied shoelaces. “Cubs tickets… they get Cubs tickets!” He smiled and placed one hand on his hip, a basketball on the other. “I’ll win em’ when I’m old enough. Just got to keep working hard.”

With the support of State Farm, the long-time leadership sponsor of Hoops in the Hood, all participating teams – win or lose – walked away from the tournament with book bags stuffed with school supplies for the upcoming school year.

With more than a decade of positive impact, LISC Chicago has expanded the Hoops in the Hood network to 16 community partners: ABC Pilsen, Back of the Yards Neighborhood Council, Beyond the Ball, Breakthrough Urban Ministries, BUILD Inc., Chicago Men in Action, Claretian Associates, Near West Side CDC, Northwest Side Housing Center, Project H.O.O.D., Saint Anthony Hospital Foundation, Southwest Organizing Project, Teamwork Englewood, The Ark of St. Sabina, Annie B. Jones Community Services (Shore Up) and The Community Builders. This year, 41 teams (four of which were all girl’s teams) amounted to 350 participating athletes.

The finals this year were in Grant Park. Forty-one teams (four of which were all girl’s teams) competed.

A Pilsen player from an all girls’ team stood patiently in line for the bounce-house in between games with a sunflower painted on her cheek. “I’m excited to play.” When asked if she plans to participate in the Hoops program next year, she responded, “I’m never going to stop playing basketball.”

To top the day off, LISC Chicago partnered with local caterer Skyler Dees from North Lawndale, whom was able to grill on-site, a first-year success. “The day isn’t even over and this has been one of my favorite events.” Participants lined up anxiously for a burger or sweet potato and caramelized onion sandwich, the tournament’s number one hit. “For my small business to help make such an impactful event come together, I am truly blessed.”

With the city skyline painted in the background, Teamwork Englewood took home the ultimate prize along with an undefeated title for the 15-19 age group; Near West Side CDC was the champion of the 11-14 age group; Back of the Yards Neighborhood Council was the winner of the first all-girls team; and, Chicago Men In Action was the champion for the 8-10 age group.

Rob Castaneda, co-founder and executive director of Beyond the Ball, a community sports nonprofit and tournament director for the Hoops in the Hood Citywide Tournament, was blown away by the overall outcome of Hoop’s success. “You could feel a true sense of community and that’s what this program is all about – safe, fun community engagement.”

Hoops in the Hood 2017 partners and supporters include: State Farm, the Chicago Park District, the City of Chicago, the Chicago Police Department, Chicago Housing Authority, Cubs Charities, Chicago Bulls, Chicago White Sox and the Shedd Aquarium.

“I want to recognize and thank our partners and sponsors,” said Meghan Harte, LISC Chicago’s executive director. “Hoops in the Hood would not be possible without your support – this truly is a partnership and commitment to community organizations who are addressing youth engagement and violence prevention.

Posted in Health, Placemaking


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Local Initiatives Support Corporation Chicago connects neighborhoods to the resources they need to become stronger and healthier.

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