Our mission is to use the power of sport to change lives, give hope, reclaim space and develop a culture of opportunities for youth and families in Chicago. We teach youth personal and social responsibility through sports. Often times, you will hear someone talk about “getting out” of a community like Little Village or North Lawndale. Many programs focus on giving individuals the skills to do just that. But Beyond the Ball is unique in that it stresses the importance of developing the community—not just individuals. When youth grow up and take their skills elsewhere, the community will continue to struggle. But if those youth remain in the community, helping build it up, everyone’s lives will improve. Beyond the Ball wants to see its participants become leaders right in their own community. By the time youth in our community reach ten years old, many have already formed their attitudes and choices in relation to gangs, drugs, and violence. Shaping those attitudes into making positive choices means getting involved at an early age. Therefore, Beyond the Ball begins with Bitty Ball, to capture the attention of kids in kindergarten. The goal is to maintain a relationship with youth all the way through college, mentoring them at each step of the way. As kids grow, they are not only participating in different programs, they also begin to mentor those who follow. Instead of generational gaps, there becomes a generational responsibility. As much as possible, youth are given ownership of their programs, leading activities for their peers, coaching younger students, and being responsible for program structure. These elements of youth leadership, mentoring, and serving create the environment through which our mission is accomplished. While we are developing the youth as future leaders, we are also developing healthier communities right now. Our programs focus on using neighborhood spaces in positive ways. We help empower citizens to challenge the negative norms of a community and replace them with positive norms. Why should things like gang violence and drug trafficking be an accepted part of life? These types of things should not be the normal experience for anyone. Beyond the Ball is helping recapture public space for positive use.