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Supporting youth strengthens our communities. Basketball can play a big role

See Sacramento Kings’ Kings and Queens Rise program

The Sacramento Kings announced the return of Kings and Queens Rise, a co-ed youth league which promotes a positive environment through community building.
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The Sacramento Kings announced the return of Kings and Queens Rise, a co-ed youth league which promotes a positive environment through community building.

After the tragic death of Stephon Clark last year, the Sacramento Kings and the Build.Black. Coalition came together to create safe spaces that support the aspirations of young people living in under-resourced communities across our city.

Using our experiences as a world-class basketball organization and as a trusted steward of community resources, we knew one way we could achieve our joint goal was through community-led team sports. This vision gave birth to Kings and Queens Rise, an inter-community, coed basketball league that brings together communities that have been left out of our economic renaissance.

For the second consecutive year, the Sacramento Kings, Build.Black. Coalition and the Black Child Legacy Campaign are hosting the Kings and Queens Rise championship tournament at Golden 1 Center this week on July 23. Designed for students in fifth to 10th grades who don’t get to play elsewhere, the league runs for nine weeks and hosts weekly games in eight under-resourced Sacramento neighborhoods. Over the past two summers, hundreds of local youth have participated in community-building team practices, career and technology learning sessions, soft skills seminars and a positive development curriculum designed by Project Optimism.

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We know there are few better ways to learn how to work together as a part of a team than competitive sport, where young athletes practice respect and foster a healthy competitive drive – skills that are essential for success in our new economy.

For example, research from the University of Kansas shows high school students who participate in sports are 8 percent more likely to finish school than non-athletes. And according to the National Gang Center, steering youth toward structured activities like sports is one of the best ways to prevent gang participation.

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Last year, the league saw a 100 percent player retention rate, and this year we are on track to see the same. Many of these athletes, their coaches and mentors are now helping one another address trauma and interrupt violence throughout the city.

Kings and Queens Rise is more than an opportunity for young people to play sports. It’s also a chance for these future leaders to meet and learn from youth and mentors beyond their own neighborhood boundaries.

Last year the city of Sacramento saw a significant reduction in youth violence. In fact, it was the first time in 35 years that not a single minor was murdered in the city, and current data shows that we’re on course to have a similarly safe year again. Clearly, many public and nonprofit institutions contributed to this outcome, but we know that programs like Kings and Queens Rise help to foster positive relationships built on the idea that we all share the responsibility for creating environments that are supportive and safe.

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As we prepare to roll out the purple carpet at Golden 1 Center for the league championship this week, we hope these young people feel the love we have for them and our pride in the great strides they have made. It’s an example of our ongoing commitment to our initial goals of creating safe spaces where healing, thriving and connecting young people can occur.

Put simply, our goal is to ensure all young people are afforded opportunities that build great futures for themselves, their communities and our city.

Basketball is one of the most accessible sports in the world, and we are proud to bring what it can teach beyond the court closer to Sacramento youth. We encourage others to commit to similar endeavors, in their own way, recognizing that we all can make a difference in the lives of our least advantaged youth.

As we move beyond the tragedy that gave birth to this effort, let’s not ever forget what got us started by committing to making our city and our youth stronger, better prepared and more hopeful about our shared future. That’s what great cities, with great institutions, do.

Vivek Ranadivé, Owner and Chairman of the Sacramento Kings and Chet P. Hewitt, President and CEO, Sierra Health Foundation and The Center and a founding member of the Build.Black. Coalition

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