For those who love their city like Sean Croudy does, it’s more than just a game.
As Flint’s Citywide Basketball League prepares to launch its first season since returning to the community after more than a decade, Croudy and other youth advocates say the program is a local institution.
About 300 elementary through high school-aged athletes joined the league in its January 2018 reinstatement after a 15-year absence. Organizers plan a new season Jan. 5 through March 16, 2019. The goal of the upcoming program is to increase community involvement and support, while continuing to provide an outlet for youth to develop and personally excel, city officials say.
“We’re expecting more teams and more participation, based on the success of season number one,” says Croudy, director of community recreation.
Registration for the free, 10-week league will be from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m. Dec. 19-21. Mayor Karen Weaver will hold a press conference Dec. 20 to formally announce the program, along with the City of Flint’s partners, which include Flint Recast, the YMCA, Chris McLavish Basketball, Eagles Nest Charter Academy, and Mt. Olive Missionary Baptist Church.
The community’s positive response to Flint’s reintroduction of a city-sponsored basketball program played a part in the decision to launch a second consecutive season, adds Croudy.
“The mayor was definitely pleased,” he says. “She actually came to a couple of games.”
In spite of frigid temperatures during the early weeks of the year, many parents and families came out to cheer youth throughout the 2018 season, paying $3 admission to enjoy as many games as they chose to attend throughout the day.
While there was competitive play that drew “awesome crowds,” particularly among spectators for the elementary youth, Croudy says a distinction the Citywide Basketball League has earned is its role as an outlet to empower families. Literature and assistance related to employment, health and other topics impacting local households, and useful items like smoke detectors, have all been made available to fans attending the weekly, Saturday contests.
“We also want people to know that we’re going to have more services provided at the games,” Croudy says.
“In addition to seeing some good ball, you’ll have some information about anything in life that you need help with.”
The importance of exposure to community resources and opportunities can’t be underestimated, Croudy says, since basketball is an event where information can reach city residents who might not otherwise receive it.
“We’re known for awesome athletes that come from Flint. The resources we have here are an additional benefit.”
Athletically, the focus of the 2019 season will include recruiting more girls to play. The 2018 program included just two girls’ teams in five age divisions.
Police Athletic League youth are expected to comprise some of the participants in the upcoming program, and there might even be some competition from outside Genesee County. Interest from Pontiac and as far away as Windsor, Ontario has been expressed by team organizers who can register youth to play against Flint athletes.
“When things are successful, you get interest from everywhere,” Croudy says.
Out-of-town participation would give visitors a better sense of positive developments in Flint, he adds.
Games will be played in the gyms at Eagle’s Nest Academy, 5101 Cloverlawn Drive, and Mt. Olive Missionary Baptist Church, 424 E. Kennelworth Ave. Eagle’s Nest will host the elementary school divisions while Mt. Olive hosts middle school and high school competition.
Another winter sports opportunity for Flint children will also be available with the Inner City Youth Hockey League’s nine weekends of free instruction January through March. City residents ages 8 through 11 can register on a first-come, first-served basis at www.flintjrfirebirds.com by Dec. 28, and can even receive free bus transportation.
Along with opportunities to get regular exercise during team practices and league play, Croudy says the basketball and hockey programs are building a legacy in which local sports fans and the wider community can take pride.
“Give a kid an opportunity and things can be created from there,” he says.
“The more you play, the better you are, the more things you learn.”
Flint Citywide Basketball League, Flint Junior Firebirds, Mayor Karen Weaver, Eagle’s Nest Charter Academy, Mt. Olive Baptist Church, Flint Recast, Police Athletic League