The Challenge of Space for One Community Group
From Court to College, Metroball Helps Take Kids Off the Streets
Metroball Youth Outreach, also called Metroball, is more than your typical neighborhood basketball club. Its impact extends far beyond the court. The program strives to make youth more productive and enhance their lives.
“We show kids that there’s more to life, and we give them more choices than what they think they have,” Metroball President Terrance Judge said, telling success stories of how they have worked with kids to steer them away from a life of violence. “They haven’t experienced much outside of their environment. There’s so much more than just their neighborhood.”
Judge and Metroball co-founder Kevin Jones aim to broaden participants’ vision of life by getting them out of their comfort zone. But, as they are trying to strengthen the community, they face hurdles from lack of recreational space to hold practices. They have tried to work with several schools to utilize their facilities but have faced red tape and uncooperative administration, forcing them to cut back the program.
“Not having a consistent facility hinders what we’re trying to do,” Jones said. “I think there should be an easier process to use facilities for nonprofits and programs that are there to help youth.”
Metroball helps keep kids busy and redirects their energy from crime and violence.
Metroball got its start in 2000 at the New York Avenue playground in the Ward 5 Truxton Circle neighborhood of Northwest Washington. Kids in the neighborhoods directly surrounding the playground were fighting with each other. “They were feuding with and killing each other,” Judge said.
In addition to trying to stop crime, including those stabbings and shootings, Metroball puts many kids who have dropped out of high school back in school – and even sends them to college. Thanks to Metroball, students might have access to college through the Amateur Athletic Union (AAU) program, helping many youth receive basketball scholarships.
Along with working with high school youth, Metroball works with at risk middle school and elementary school children.
“We use basketball as a tool” to engage kids and teach them life skills, Jones explained.
Jones and Judge, who do this work for free, also mentor the kids and talk to them about what is going on in their neighborhoods and why there is so much conflict.
“A lot of problems have been solved on the basketball court itself,” Judge said, though acknowledges that they can’t save every kid.
One of Metroball’s struggles comes from the lack of available school facilities, which are generally more affordable than renting space at other venues such as church gyms. Their current reliance on one expensive church gym has forced the organization to shorten practices.
“It’s really sad,” Judge said, who admitted that they are considering “moving to Virginia because we’re told there are more gyms in that area.”
Despite struggles, Metroball continues to offer its programs free of charge. The organization relies solely on fundraisers, donations, and grants for funding.
“It can be tough,” Judge explains. “I’m the highest donor to our Combined Federal Campaign.”
Nevertheless, that has not stopped Judge and Jones from wanting to continue the work they’ve been doing for the community.
“These children should not suffer,” Judge said. “If I had not been mentored, I would not be where I am today.”