Nearly 60 youth in the Regent Park community took park in a 10-week ProAction Cops & Kids-sponsored basketball and soccer program for girls and boys.
Every Wednesday, the young basketball participants converged on Regent Park Community Centre for the program. The soccer players were in action on Saturdays.
“We spent time chatting with them about policing, mental health, fitness, nutrition and other general life issues they wanted to talk about before they went on the court and onto the soccer field,” said Detective Constable Mustafa Popalzai, who oraganized the tournament with his partner Farzhad Ghotbi as Neighbourhood Community Officers in Regent Park.
The goal was to connect young people with positive outlets.
“We recognize that sports programs will not end gun violence in the city. However, it just an extra layer of preventative measure we can take to engage with the young people and keep them busy and focused on sport and a healthy lifestyle.”
The basketball players competed in a league format comprising six teams. There were four teams in the soccer program.
The officers played in the matches and did some coaching and refereeing.
“It was one of the best programs we have had in the community for a very long time,” said Popalzai. “We did not mind chipping in from our own pockets as the cost went over what we anticipated. We planned to facilitate 40 youths, but the number exceeded that and we had no intention of turning anyone away.”
Each of the participants received basketballs, soccer balls, new shoes and bags.