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Operation Night Hoops teaches teamwork, discipline

by Tech. Sgt. Chris Miller
6th Air Mobility Wing Public Affairs
Photo by: Tech. Sgt. Chris Miller
Marcellus George, Youth Center director of youth sports, referees as a player tosses the ball in to start the second half of an Operation Night Hoops game.

MacDill youths have a unique basketball league and for them it's a slam-dunk. Called Operation Night Hoops, this program gives teens an opportunity to play basketball and improve their athletic skills while learning teamwork and discipline in a healthy, drug-free environment.

"My goals with the program here are to give kids more opportunities at night on the weekends and then, once they come through our doors, to keep them here and off the streets," said Marcellus George, Youth Center director of youth sports."

Operation Night Hoops, which started in 2000 at 14 Air Force bases within the Air Education and Training Command, was offered to all Air Force Youth Centers in 2001.

The league was created and developed by the Kids Sports Network in San Antonio and is a hybrid of two highly successful programs KSN has operated for many years - the Spurs Drug-Free Youth Basketball and Midnite Basketball Leagues.

The league at MacDill was run at the Youth Center every Friday night with four teams ranging in age from 13-18 years old. It recently completed its four-week session. The games began at 8:30 p.m., but before tip-off, the players attend a 20-minute Life Skills workshop run by the Health and Wellness Center.

The HAWC supplied the Youth Center with a $1,000 grant so all the participants would receive a basketball and a t-shirt. It came to the Youth Center each Friday for the first three weeks and counseled the kids on nutrition, cooking, exercise and other health related items.

Kyle Weihs, 16, who also won the slam dunk competition, thinks it will have an impact. Besides working on improving his basketball skills, he is learning a few things about a healthy lifestyle.

"The workshops before our games are very educational and informative," said Weihs. "By having members of the Health and Wellness Center come out and talk with us, it gives us good information on eating healthy and being healthy."

Martel Moody, 15, agrees with Weihs and adds, "I like it because it keeps us active at night and off the streets and puts us in a positive environment. This program also teaches you good sportsmanship."

"The program has worked out really well and more kids want to get involved," said George. "We started with 34 players and increased to 40. I feel it's extremely important to provide kids other options. I really salute the efforts of KSN and the San Antonio Spurs for starting this program for teens." For more information on this event or to volunteer for future events at the Youth Center, call 828-7957.




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