Our mission is to harness the power of sport and play to reclaim space, unite the community, and create a culture of opportunity through which we cultivate hope and change lives. We teach youth personal and social responsibility through sports. Often times, you will hear someone talk about “getting out” of a neighborhoods like Little Village or North Lawndale. Many programs focus on giving individuals the skills to do just that. However, Beyond the Ball is unique in that we stress the importance of developing the community as a whole—not just individuals. When youth grow up and take their skills elsewhere, the community continues to struggle. But if those youth remain in the community, helping to 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 the age of ten, many have already developed their attitudes and choices in regards to gangs, drugs, and violence. Positively shaping those attitudes and 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 throughout 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 often as possible, youth are given ownership of their programs, leading activities for their peers, coaching younger students, and developing responsibility for program structure by voicing their opinions. 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 reclaiming public spaces for positive activity. We help empower residents to challenge the negative norms of a community and replace them with positive norms. We don't believe that gang violence and drug trafficking should be aspects of life that young people grow up accepting as normal experiences.
Our vision is to have a neighborhood of personally and socially responsible young people and adults who are stakeholders in their community. We want youth and families to feel safe in public play spaces. We want people to develop a sense of ownership of and responsibility for their community and it's safety and maintenance. Beyond the Ball wants to see its participants grow and flourish into successful young adults who return to the community and positively contribute. Many of our program participants are attending or have graduated from college, several currently serve on our Board of Directors.