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Published September 12 2010

Youthworks 2-on-2 more than just hoops

A pint-sized baller in a red shirt smacked his opponent’s shot and let out a little yell.

“No trash talking,” said Joe Anderson, a volunteer referee at Saturday’s Fargo-Moorhead Street Outreach 2-on-2 basketball tournament in Moorhead’s Romkey Park.

“We just try to keep the game as friendly as possible,” Anderson said.

After all, this annual event of the Youthworks Street Outreach Program, is more than just hoops.

Street Outreach Coordinator Allison Rehling wants the young people of the community to “know that there are adults that care about them and that they can trust.”

It was the fourth year for the event, which drew 10 teams of youths ages 6 to 17.

“What’s cool is the older kids support the younger kids,” said tournament organizer Stacey Hanks, who called the event “very fun for the staff and for the youth.”

The site of a 1998 riot, the Romkey neighborhood has been seen as an at-risk area. A little more than a year ago, residents of the area were shaken by the high-profile shooting of 17-year-old Joel LaFromboise, who was killed after he wandered into the apartment of a neighborhood resident.

Youthworks is a nonprofit organization that provides youth and family services. And following the June 2009 shooting, a once-closed Youthworks program reopened, operating from 3 to 6 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday in the neighborhood.

Kids turned out early Saturday to help set up for the event, Hanks said as she stood under a bright blue sky on a day that was perfect for outdoor hoops.

She said the kids really take ownership of their tournament.

Prizes for first, second and third places were up for grabs Saturday. But Hanks said the sportsmanship trophy they give out is as important to the participants as winning.

“The trophy is a huge deal to them,” she said.

And that’s got to be a good thing in the mind of the event’s organizers.

“The purpose (of the event) is to build sportsmanship in the community and have a positive recreation activity” for the young people, Rehling said.

And the positive messages they’re trying to send may just be getting through.

When asked about his favorite part of the tournament, one 9-year-old participant brought up sportsmanship.

“Passing to each other and stuff,” he said. “It’s really interesting when you play with your friends.”

Or as another 9-year-old participant said: “I did a lot of teamworks.”


Readers can reach Forum reporter Shane Mercer at (701) 451-5734