Youth Basketball (Our Lady of Fatima)
Our Lady of Fatima Parish Perth Amboy, New Jersey
Since 1969, the Our Lady of Fatima Perth Amboy Wolves youth basketball teams have provided an opportunity for young men and women to learn discipline and teamwork and come to understand their own value through the support of the community. The all-volunteer program staff use basketball as a way to get kids involved and help them overcome the challenges they face; the program is based on the belief that if even one life is changed, it’s worth it! Their motto is, "You can't change them all, but if you change one, your work is done."
Currently there are two teams, a JV Freshmen team for 9th- and 10th-grade boys, and a Senior team for 11th- and 12th-grade boys. The girl’s team is currently on hiatus, but the parish expects to re-start it in upcoming seasons. When funding allows, the program also sponsors a cheerleading squad for middle schoolers. In all the program serves between 30 and 60 young people.
Many of the youth involved come from immigrant families or are immigrants themselves. They face a myriad of challenges from lack of parental involvement to constant distraction by social media. The basketball program helps participants focus on what really matters, at least for a portion of their day. Once they discover they are valued and believed in outside their families, the kids thrive and are willing to give their all. Supportive programs like this are vitally needed in this community where almost 30% of children are living below the poverty level.
For the Wolves, personal growth and development is as important as winning basketball games. Beside practicing four days a week from October to May and playing at least one game a week, the team participates in volunteer opportunities together and attends Mass at the parish every week as a team. Players are also expected to keep their grades up. If a player fails to meet these expectations, they will sit out during games, even if it means losing a championship.
Another important aspect of the program is the development of leadership. The current head of the program originally became involved as a player in the 1990s, and many other former players have come back to volunteer either with the team or with other initiatives in the community.