Organization hopes basketball deters kids from crime

Hoop Fest aims to keep kids off streets and teach positive lessons to them

Basketball is a pastime that's led to career paths, but a local organization hopes it leads to a path without crime.

Stop the Violence and Taking Authority, a branch of Stop the Violence, held its Second Annual Hoop Fest: A basketball tournament that teaches kids from elementary school through high school more than just passing and making shots.

"It's to get these kids something to do during the summer and during the year and let them know the community is here for them and there's an alternative between violence and things of that nature," says Hoop Fest Coordinator Sidney Thomas.

Coaches are honing in on players' basketball skills, but they are also teaching sportsmanship, how to be a team player and other characteristics.

"Discipline is definitely something that we emphasize in our program as well. Without good discipline, no work ethic and respect then you really don't have a positive game of basketball," says Volunteer and Coach Christopher Jones, also Dougherty County's Teacher of the Year.

In the event's second year, Stop the Violence volunteers are already noticing a difference in Southwest Georgia's youth.

"During the tournament, the event itself for Friday, kids would be, if you went up to them and gave them directions, they were more apt to say 'We understand, yes sir.' We weren't getting that beginning of last year," says Thomas.

After last year's tournament, he says the players could not wait for the next one.

"Different coaches in the communityâ| they (kids) went up to them and said 'When are we having the next Stop the Violence tournament?'" says Thomas.

Players from elementary school through high school are passing along the message Stop the Violence is sending to their teammates off the court.

"They should come here because it teaches you how to teach a student athlete," says Jordan Brown, 10-year-old player in Hoop Fest.

The community is not letting the efforts of Stop the Violence's basketball tournament go unnoticed.

"The grandparents and parents are all so proud of this team and what this organization is doing for the city," says Maggie Dawson, whose grandson participated in the tournament.

Each player received a participation certificate. The winning team from each of the three age groups received a plaque and trophy.

For more information on Hoop Fest and Stop the Violence, you can reach them by phone at (229) 463-2009.

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