This past Saturday, a few fathers collected their sons and nephews and came to the south suburbs to participate in Connected Through Hoops. The idea was to provide a safe space for fathers (elders) to spend time with their sons (youth) while playing basketball. The event was designed to try and strengthen the connection between men and their boys through significant physical activities. And I believe we did just that.
With this being the inaugural Connected Through Hoops event, my mind was filled with solutions to problems that hadn’t occurred. I was anxious because I wanted the event to go well and I wanted this time that these families of men and young men would spend to help strengthen their relationships. When I reflect on the interactions I had with my son on Saturday, I can only hope that the others fathers felt the same closeness. Usually it’s hard to get my son away from his electronic devices. Shockingly, he didn’t pick up his phone or ask for it for the entire time we were there. As I think back, I don’t recall seeing any of the young gentlemen staring off into their phones. I was happy to see that everyone was engaged.
I also saw my son be more outgoing when I am used to seeing him withdraw in large groups. I can’t help but think that my presence played a role in his confidence. I hope the young men there felt something meaningful directly related to the person that brought them there. I can only speak for me but I imagine that similar memories were created for the other families represented.
I am grateful for Joseph Williams, one of the Co-Founder’s of the Henry Williams Love Foundation for being there to represent the foundation and for assisting with managing the event. The refreshments provided by the Foundation kept everyone hydrated and energized. I have already begun planning the next Connected Through Hoops event because I want to continue to provide opportunities for the relationships between fathers and sons to flourish. Please follow henrywilliamslove.org for more information and upcoming details for other Connected Through Hoops events.
Guest Author Post by Board of Directors Member, James Tate, Jr.
My father introduced my brother and I to the game of basketball but it wasn’t until I was in 8th grade that I started to fall in love with the sport. Some might consider me a late bloomer. I was a student at Theodore Herzl Elementary School in the North Lawndale area and I remember dunking tennis balls and then volleyballs on the regulation rims. It’s possible some of my father’s athleticism trickled down to me. I have heard that he was a pretty good ball player. It turns out that athleticism was enough to earn a spot on Lane Tech High School’s basketball team, which eventually opened up an opportunity for me to play basketball on a collegiate level. This chronology changed the entire path of my life.
My father would drive the two and a half hours to Madison Wisconsin to watch me play and then drive back to Chicago after the game. I’d like to think that he was proud of me. I’d like to think that he lived his hoop dreams through me. I realize that he was probably proud of me for more significant reasons like graduating high school and getting a college education because those experiences were not guaranteed for most of my peers but I’d like to think that our love for this sport connected us.
While my experiences at Edgewood College gave me institutional education in academics and athletics, it is my personal experiences as a father to my own son (pictured below) that inspired me to create the Connected Through Hoops event. I wanted to give fathers and sons another opportunity to connect with each other and together build skills that can help them in their own lives. There are so many levels of connectivity and I believe the more levels we can connect on (as a community), then the stronger our bonds become; the stronger our communities can become. I am fortunate to sit on the Board of Directors for Henry Williams Love Foundation, who through my service and some board training, I am able to plan these types of events. Help me strengthen the community of fathers and sons on December 8th at the Richton Park Community Center between 5 and 7pm. Register to attend at http://bit.ly/connectedthroughhoops.