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Cambridge neighbourhood group is all 'About The Bounce'

Pilot program began in October and will run until the beginning of April
Preston Heights Community Group, offers ‘About the Bounce’, a program that combines skills-based basketball with ‘in-class’ leadership and mentorship components.

An innovative youth basketball and leadership program is doing a full-court press in Cambridge.

The Preston Heights Community Group, offers ‘About the Bounce’, a program that combines skills-based basketball with ‘in-class’ leadership and mentorship components.

“This pilot program has been a great success so far,” said Sandra Gammage, Community Engagement Coordinator, at Silverheights Neighbourhood Association.

“Right now, we just want to get the word out, to let youth know that it’s out there.”

The basketball program pilot began in October and will run until the beginning of April.

“We were lucky to secure a generous amount of funding to cover it. At the beginning, we were also able to get participants new basketball shoes, a new gym bag and water bottle," Gammage said.

Targeting youth from grades 6 - 8, the combined basketball and leadership development program runs every Thursday from 6 p.m. until 8 p.m.

“It’s a little bit different from anything else that has been going on around here in the sense that youth are provided with one hour of a skill-based basketball development. The second hour is then followed up with an in-class session, with a focus on leadership development and mentorship," Gammage said.

“We knew we would have a limited number that we could accommodate. There about 20-22 youth taking part right now. We are really looking for youth who would benefit from this and that may not have had an opportunity like this before.”

Gammage says participants don’t need any previous skills in basketball, just a keen interest.

The first hour of basketball development, it is professionally coached by You vs You, an organization that offers basketball training to co-ed youth, as well as college and professional players.

“Starting this month and for the next six or eight weeks, we are utilizing a program developed for us by Kind Minds Family Wellness, which a local organization,” Gammage said.

“They will cover a range of different topics such as leadership styles within sports, culture within the sports community, equity, diversity and inclusion, how can youth become better leaders, and how they can make change in their communities.”

In between the physical and in-class sessions, participants are provided with dinner or snacks.

“So far, it’s been a great experience,” Gammage said.

“Kids grouping together and making friends in a positive, accepting and diverse environment. We have girls and boys. They all come together.”

Gammage says the short-term goal is for youth to develop an interest in becoming future leaders and community builders.

“The hope is that they will then take on additional leadership roles, whether at their schools, clubs or sports,” Gammage said.

“The long-term goal perspective is to accommodate kids and help them realize the importance of education and leadership, and to help them with planning for post secondary school."

Gammage says in the future, the program will open to more age groups and expand to other neighbourhoods.

"Right now, About the Bounce is taking place at Langs Community Wellness Centre in Preston. They have given us a space which is wonderful,” Gammage said.

Lori Da Cunha, executive director at Silverheights Neighbourhood Association, says she has personally seen the value in the program and the skills that are being developed both on and off the court.

"As a result, we have worked alongside Preston Heights Community Group to bring this program and opportunity to our own community in Hespeler," Da Cunha said.

About the Bounce is a work in progress but so far, but Gammage says the program is proving to be very successful.

“Chatting with a few parents, they love the consistency of the program. For families in a lower income bracket, some programs might not be consistent in terms of accessibility, but this one is once a week with a big time frame from fall until the spring,” Gammage said.

One parent provided feedback saying the program was just what was needed.

"The pandemic was hard, long and very isolating. It presented new and unique challenges that hit our children drastically. About the Bounce is so much more than a basketball program. While it’s important to teach my son the fundamental basics of a game he loves, the exercise and motivation has been a nice change of pace,” she said.

“The weekly skills and speakers are addressing and recognizing a gap in traditional services. My son has met with motivational speakers and inspiring leaders in his community, learned new skills that extend far beyond the court, and has connected and reintegrated with his peers. As a parent, seeing the long-term impact of About the Bounce has been an inspiration. We are thankful to have been given the opportunity.”

For those interested in participating in the next available session, they can contact the Silverheights Neighbourhood Association here.

“The hope is that it attracts those kids who have a specific interest and can benefit. They will also have an opportunity to attend a Raptors game at the end of the program,” Gammage said.  

“This is all about giving youth opportunities that they likely would not have had otherwise.”

The Preston Heights Community Group is a not for profit organization that supports positive development in the community and offers programs, events, and activities for all ages and abilities.

For more information, visit here.