Bitty Ball is a two-level program that allows older youth to develop leadership skills while younger kids engage in a variety of skill-building athletic activities, as profiled here by CNN:
athletic skills and values training (K-2nd grade students)
Bitty Ball Basketball and soccer sessions have been run at multiple elementary schools in our target neighborhoods, as well as at Westlawn Gospel Chapel. Our experience shows us that most kids form their opinions, and acceptance, of certain negative norms by the time they are ten years old. So we targeting a young age, allowing them to form an identity linked to positive values. Our programs teach athletic skills, but moreover teaches values that are illustrated on the court or field. Those values are then discussed, exploring how they also translate to every day life.
The values we use in our curriculum are defines as follows:
Community: A group of people that share a common interest and create an environment that is caring and inclusive.
Leadership: To serve and care for others
Perseverance: To demonstrate persistence in spite of discouragement or difficulties
Respect: To demonstrate care and kindness for others
Responsibility: To demonstrate trustworthiness and dependability
Teamwork: To cooperate as a group in order to achieve a common goal
leadership development (3rd grade and up)
Once youth enter 3rd grade, they take a greater role during Bitty Ball. They serve as coaches for the next group of kids in the program. This involves planning, organizing, and running each session. They discover how to be vocal leaders as they lead group exercises, and learn how to teach one-on-one as they guide Bitty Ballers in specialized drills. As the older youth become known as "Coach" by the younger kids, they realize how they are being watched, become more mindful of the example they set, and create a bond with the community. Instead of a generational gap, there becomes generational responsibility. This pattern of older youth helping younger kids begins in Bitty Ball and continues all the way through Beyond the Ball programming. We call it our "leadership ladder".
Bitty Ball impact heard by Congress
In September, 2010, Beyond the Ball was invited to Washington, D.C., so that Bitty Ball participant and youth coach Miguel Leonardo could testify as to the value of the program to Congress (pictured below).