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On June 24, Gateway hosted a basketball tournament at Hooperstown Basketball Fitness & Education Facility. There were officially four teams from the Bronx location in the tournament, with one winner at the end of the day. In addition, there were two teams of staff, and a team from the Queens facility. DSP and coach Eric R., who organized the event, was very happy. “I had a lot of players who wanted a tournament for a long time. There are lots of different groups going all the time and I was constantly thinking, ‘How do we utilize this space so everyone can enjoy it at once?’ I’ve always thought friendly competition would be a good idea.”

Said DSP and player for one of the staff teams Erin L., “The individuals playing got a sense of accomplishment and appreciation. People are always taking care of them and worrying about them and they’re not in control of their lives all the time. This lets them have a good time doing something they enjoy and they get praised for doing it. The individuals watching appreciated the change of pace, the environment, the excitement.”

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Eric said, “For the individuals, it was immensely beneficial. They learned teamwork, learned how it’s different to play when you have an audience, because you have to focus much harder.  They learn how to strategize, and think about the next game, not just this game they’re playing right now.  Just being on a team they learn so many things.  I’ve been telling them from the beginning, ever since I took over coaching them, ‘The goal is not to make you better at basketball, but to make you better team players.’  It’s really good to have a better grasp of being on a team, because that helps develop individuality and communication, and empathy, and so many things that also help someone deal with issues outside of Gateway and in the greater community.”

“Plus,” he added, “the cheerleaders really amped everybody up.”

“We enjoyed ourselves,” said dance instructor and DSP at Gateway Gloria N., “It was hard to dance to real cheerleading music but we got through it. We normally dance to hip hop. You have to smile more in cheerleading and do hand movements because of the pom poms. It’s actually hard not to drop them, you need to swing it really fast and make sure you’re a safe distance from everyone else when you stretch your arms out. There ended up being a lot of voguing but we came through.”

Eric said, “Overall it was much better than I had expected. The individuals were really excited, the crowd had them excited. It’s something different, something out of the ordinary for them. Now they’re always talking about it, especially about the staff game, which I’ve been trying to set up since I started working at Gateway. Staff don’t always get to enjoy certain aspects of community activities, so it was good, and great for the individuals to see them playing the same game on the same court. And they can learn from staff, it let them lead by example.”

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“We go back to Hooperstown as much as we can, but it’s a bit too busy for us in the summer.  They have summer camps whenever students aren’t in school, so it’s pretty packed.  It’s not easy to go somewhere outside all the time because that’s also too packed.  I would like to find a place that’s a little more low key, where we can have some space to ourselves before the summer ends.  My groups are always asking about practices now. I’m still trying to take them somewhere they can practice all year.  Everyone was happy to be there, happy to play, great friendly competition.  everybody had so much fun.”