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Sharing life’s winning playbook

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For generations, numerous studies have reported that when temperatures rise in the summer, so do the rates of crime.

Those same studies indicate that gang activity becomes attractive to youth who want to belong to a group that provides support and builds their self-confidence.

Fortunately, the Eric Gordon Municipal Gardens Summer League offers those things, as well as a fun alternative to the temptations of crime.

“Young men are five times more likely to get involved in drugs, alcohol, tobacco, sexual activity and violent acts during the summer because they simply don’t have much to do,” said Willie Gupton, director of Municipal Gardens. “What we want to do is give young people a chance to be around solid role models in a safe setting and learn not only basketball skills, but also life skills.”

The summer program is part of the historical Municipal Gardens league that has sent teams to six national Amateur Athletic Union (AAU) championships and served the Indianapolis community for more than 50 years. The league began offering summer workshops for participants six years ago, and each year more than 150 players are divided into 22 teams for youth ages 7 to 12, and 13 to 18.

In addition to the regular excitement of the games and the self-esteem that comes from successful teamwork, players also benefit from seven weeks of workshops they attend before they go out on the court every Friday.

“We tell them ‘you’re allowed to play, but first you gotta pay’ by coming to these workshops we have put together,” said Gupton.

The workshops are presented by different facilitators each week on various topics designed to help players make good decisions and become productive citizens.

The inspirational film “War For Your Soul” is among several educational items that will be shown to the students this summer. A workshop on the importance of spiritual health by the Rev. Jimmy Harrington of the community organization, Christamore House, and another by the Bell Flower Clinic about preventing sexually transmitted diseases are just two of this summer’s scheduled presentations.

Many of the volunteer coaches involved in the Eric Gordon Municipal Gardens Summer League played ball at the park themselves as children.

“There is a segment of young men in this city who do not value life,” Gupton said. “Our goal is to help them realize the importance of their own life and gifts, and help them understand that life is a precious gift from God. The consequences of taking a life reach far because they can effect entire families and communities.”

Antonio Cannon, 20, values the four years he spent participating in the league.

“I encourage young men to sign up not only because it gives you something to do if you love basketball, but it also helps young men stay in school and become positive members of the community,” Antonio said.

Romeo Quarterman, 15, has been involved for a few years now and anticipates another great summer of basketball at Municipal Gardens.

“The league is very beneficial because it helps you become a man and teaches you the value of life,” Romeo said. “It really gives you the motivation to stay out of trouble and something fun to look forward to in the summer.”

About Municipal Gardens

Municipal Gardens has programs that serve youth, adults, seniors and people with special needs. One of Indy Parks’ oldest recreation centers, Municipal Gardens was opened as a public park in 1952. Previously the facility, which was built in 1920, served as a private canoe and yacht club. Its amenities include a gymnasium, two multi-purpose rooms, spray pool, shelter, playground, conference room and basketball court.

Join a winning league!

What: Eric Gordon Municipal Gardens Summer League

Where: Municipal Gardens recreation center, 1831 Lafayette Rd.

Why: Municipal Gardens has earned a national reputation for its champion Amateur Athletic Union (AAU) basketball teams. Teams from the league have won the national championship title six times and the runner-up title six times since 1955.

For more information, call (317) 327-PARK or (317) 327-7186.

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