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Working Professionally with Children and Youth in Care
CYC-Online Issue 95 DECEMBER 2006 / BACK
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Hoop dreams ... societal schemes? How do you see it?

Karen VanderVen

Positive Behavior Facilitation (PBF) is a comprehensive approach to understanding and intervening in the behavior of youth. This article describes the components of PBF.

Recently I saw:

Where did I see all these things? Hoop Dreams. You don’t have to be a basketball fanatic to get some powerful challenges to your views from this film, which is more than another entertaining basketball movie such as Above the Rim and Blue Chips. When I casually asked Mark Krueger (we all know him) if he had seen Hoop Dreams, and he replied that he had shown it to his child care worker classes, my compulsion to invite others to share this learning opportunity with us was affirmed.

This highly acclaimed and widely advertised documentary follows two inner city Chicago boys, William Gates and Arthur Agee, from age 14 to young adulthood. Discovered on the playgrounds, they are recruited into high schools to play, and, with their families and friends, experience many travails – and some triumphs – along the way.

Critics have talked about how the film so stunningly portrays the money driven sports recruitment “system” that consumes these young people and unfeelingly spits them out when it is done with them no better than when they started and with their hopes and dreams dashed. Indeed. But what did the youth receive? Special attention to their schooling including insistence on – and hence an incentive to work for – high school graduation. A job that widened horizons and taught new skills. Individual attention. Ongoing challenge. I continually felt that what was most wrong, with the exception of the unrelenting pressure to win on the court, was not that these youth were experiencing the special practices but rather, that all youth and their families were not having at least some semblance of them. One could see how those without these opportunities could very, very easily fall back into a more difficult life.

But Arthur and William did not. Like a vortex, one could see them being sucked into a potentially better future. Today these young men, each a father, are still playing basketball and both have a degree. Arthur graduated from a community college and went on to a southern university; Bill, after surmounting some academic frustration, has a B average and is still playing at a well-known midwestern university. Maybe they won’t attain their dream as 14-year-olds of playing professionally in the National Basketball Association, but they have definitely achieved other things.

The system that governs organized sports can corrupt – there is ample evidence for that. But the sport itself, if properly administered, can also teach much about the skills for life and serve as a linchpin for positive development. Basketball is just one example of many other kinds of interests or activities in which the benefits such as those I cited above accrue. And it is our job as child and youth care workers to create the conditions that can make them happen; or to modify or change those that are barriers.

I just shared the messages I received from the film. There are others. See Hoop Dreams if you haven’t already. Take away your meanings and interpretations and consider where they might apply in your work with children, youth and families, whoever and wherever they may be.

This feature: Vander Ven, K. (1995) Views from the field: Hoop Dreams ... Societal schemes? How do you see it? Journal of Child and Youth Care. 10 (1). pp. 61” 62.

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