I get the same feeling every summer heading to this Street2Street tournament.
Each year the Newark tournament tops the last and I’m always convinced it cannot be topped again.
The courts are always packed. With players, yes, but also with friends, volunteers from the church, neighbors from the community. People who have no knowledge of basketball or love for the game, but rather love for the kids. I take one look around and am thankful for familiar faces. It started when Street2Street committed to showing up 7 years ago. Wanting to see the same change in their community, a local church joined our team. Year after year we showed up, and the community noticed. The positive change in the kids was evident and started influencing everyone in the neighborhood. Now they have committed to showing up with us.
The cheers from the sidelines come from left field and bring attention to the game at hand. “C’mon! Get a touchdown! Make a goal! Win!” The same voices erupt in laughter. They don’t care that they don’t know the rules because today they’re here for the girls. The stands are full for this game. Full of cheerleaders. Full of grandmas and aunties. Full of women cheering for the only girls team in the tournament. Full of belief that these girls will beat the boys twice their size.
These girls are tough. They’re fighting for the ball and winning. They’re taking the shots. They’re feeding off the energy and encouragement of friends and strangers alike. They’re working together and determined to win. And right now, they’re unstoppable.
How they feel today and react tomorrow will make a lasting impact on their already-changing community. Street2Street exists not to create winners, but champions. Our goal is that each player experiences the sensation of being unstoppable, the joy of being supported and the assurance in the bottom of their hearts that they matter.
The girls team left the courts hugging the grandmas, celebrating with their fans and dreaming of next year. They’re in it together. With their friends. With their community. With Street2Street. This is where they belong. And you can guarantee they will be back next year with even more girls and more cheerleaders to top this year.