A new partnership between Boys & Girls Clubs of Southeast Michigan and the Greater Metropolitan Youth Sports League is helping to keep young people safe and the sport alive for nearly 2,700 local young athletes.

With the COVID-19 pandemic impacting nearly every aspect of children’s daily activities, the partnership is helping restore a sense of normalcy to allow Detroit-area youth to continue playing the sports they love. Launched last summer with 11 teams, the team has allowed young people aged 5 to 14 to participate in football and cheerleading again in a safe and socially distanced way, giving them the opportunity to get back into shape. physics in their daily lives.

“Being able to bring joy to these children is something we cannot even describe,” says LaKenya Burks, President of GMYS. Six hundred volunteers help run the non-profit organization, which was established in 2015 and encourages sports and school endeavors among young people. “They are so happy to connect with people.”

It’s a big deal for the kids, who lacked socialization for months as the state navigated COVID-19 and lockdowns. The partnership, which also offers enrichment programs, events and mentorship, has helped stabilize an otherwise volatile moment in time for children, who have been hit hard by the pandemic.

Many young people in the area have been unable to make fitness a priority in recent months, which Burks says has led to weight gain and affected their mental health. “We had youngsters who had been in the house since March,” says BGCSM regional club manager Chris Kyles. The clubs, founded in 1926, serve nearly 15,000 young people each year in the greater Detroit area and offer enrichment programs with real-world learning.

With the COVID-19 pandemic impacting nearly every aspect of children’s daily activities, the partnership is helping restore a sense of normalcy to allow Detroit-area youth to continue playing the sports they love.

Today, the participating children have completely changed thanks to the opportunity to play sports again. Kyles says, “They’re eating better, more motivated and have increased activity levels.” Being able to compete again was also important for the children. “The key is to get out there and have the chance to be active,” he explains.

It’s a big advantage, says Kyles, “For the kids to go back to the fields every day. They are getting mentally stronger, which is important to help cope with the pandemic and its effects. While the partnership currently focuses on soccer and cheerleading, BGCSM and GMYS also plan to incorporate basketball in the winter. By then, they hope to increase the number of young people they can serve to 3,000.

Parent Shaneika Thomas says the partnership has helped her children participate in activities to help develop them as “responsible young men”.

“With everything going on this year with COVID, our lives have changed in so many ways. One of our main concerns as parents was that our children could not participate in their normal football season. Corn [BGCSM and GMYS] enabled my children to have safe social interactions as well as physical activities,” she says.

Another key objective of the partnership is to ensure that young athletes are ready for careers, start-ups and ownership by the age of 18. In addition to providing fitness opportunities, the program also includes coaching where young people are taught and encouraged to succeed. in all areas of their life. They receive social and emotional support through an uplifting and inspiring environment designed to bring joy to young people and their families. It’s a safe space where kids can just be kids.

This idea is a fundamental belief of the BGCSM and the GMYS. Because the missions of the organizations fit so well, it was the perfect partnership. “We are experts in youth sports,” Burks explains. “And BGCSM are experts in youth development. Overall, I think the combination of the two powers has allowed us to create phenomenal products for our future and for 21st century athletes.

“It helps them have character, be competitive and succeed when they go to post-secondary education,” continues Kyles. “So I think it’s the perfect marriage and it allows us to serve even more young people and have a bigger impact.”

Due to the pandemic, GMYS was at risk of losing its programs earlier this year, like many other nonprofits. When their host organization planned to cancel the fall sports season as a result of COVID-19, the nonprofit approached BGCSM to step in as a league partner.

BGCSM was delighted to join us and now supports three areas of the partnership. They serve as trustees and provide administrative support; they offer education and enrichment programs; and they help GMYS team leaders access Ponyride coworking memberships to strengthen and grow their organizations.

Community stakeholders and businesses, including Xenith and Blaze Contracting Inc., also partnered with BGCSM and GMYS to donate more than $100,000 in support of program operations and youth programs. This makes it possible to provide top-notch equipment for young participants in sports.

Hometown teams the Oldtown Ducks vs. the Westside Steelers face off in a game earlier this fall.

Both organizations have also taken all necessary measures to ensure a safe environment for young people, coaches and families. Youngsters are required to have their own bottle of water, which is provided or can be brought from home, and temperature checks are carried out daily and recorded. All volunteers undergo COVID-19 tests and participation in matches is limited.

This is a protocol that BGCSM and GMYS developed in partnership earlier this summer after meeting regularly to discuss best practices and security measures. Now, with the programming in place and proving successful, they want to continue to grow. “We hope this partnership will last for years and years,” says Kyles. “We are building the foundation for a legacy where GMYS and BGCSM will have a lasting impact on the city’s youth in a positive way.”