President Barack Obama meets youth at South Side YMCA
May 12, 2022

Investing in Youth Through Community Sports

At the YMCA of Metropolitan Chicago, we recognize that collaborations are the cornerstone of our success. In 2021, we turned a partnership between the YMCA of the USA and Wilson Sporting Goods into a once-in-a-lifetime enriching sporting experience for local youth.

In tandem with the return of the iconic Dreamville Chi-League Powered by Wilson basketball tournament, the Y and Wilson co-hosted three complimentary youth clinics led by local coaches and Chi-League organizers at the South Side YMCA in August. Around 150 youth learned from the best at the clinics, including taking tips from NBA trainer Chris Brickley. Bringing his NBA experience to the South Side Y’s hardwoods, Brickley took the aspiring players through a set of high-energy drills focused on developing on-court skills while emphasizing teamwork and sportsmanship.

The tournament itself inspired more than $14,000 in contributions to the Y and also led to a collaboration with The Winning Edge Leadership Academy. Together, we presented a Town Hall discussion for youth that discussed and promoted interest in the arts and sports beyond being a performer or athlete.

For generations, YMCA youth sports programs have empowered children and teens to become and stay active, gain confidence, and develop the behaviors of good sportsmanship and teamwork. The partnership with Wilson enabled the Y to extend exciting opportunities to underserved youth who might not otherwise have had the chance to access.

Similarly, working with the Obama Foundation unlocked a whole host of new experiences for local teens. Around 100 young South Side basketball enthusiasts got to practice drills with Chicago Bulls player Patrick Williams, Bulls general manager Marc Eversley, and representatives from the Chicago Sky in December at the South Side Y. But without question the biggest surprise of the day came when former U.S. President Barack Obama made an unannounced visit to encourage the student athletes to work hard to achieve their goals and express support for the Y’s work as a leading community youth services provider.

“I used to bring the girls [Malia and Sasha] here when they were just itty bitty things,” President Obama recalled fondly. “This was a community center and a place of refuge for kids ... [and] I wanted to make sure that we stopped by to let you know that it’s our intention to partner and work with this Y right here, that we’re doing everything we can to amplify and support great programs like the ones that are taking place here every day.”

“I thought I was just coming to a basketball clinic until President Obama walked in,” said shocked teen participant Antoine C. “Meeting Obama is the best thing that has ever happened to me, especially knowing that he is a ballplayer like me. I loved every minute!”

The Y is collaborating with the Obama Foundation and Obama Presidential Center in Woodlawn to bring more quality services and resources to local families and youth, especially on Chicago’s South Side.

Through slam-dunk partner events like these, there’s no denying the positive impact youth sports can have on bridging community gaps for the next generation.