The Division of Youth Services at Platte Valley Youth Services Center in Greeley now has its own basketball team. We are the Platte Valley Wolves and we’re proud of it! We started our team by choosing ten upper level (junior/senior) pass-eligible youth who had demonstrated they were passionate about basketball. At first, we began with the basics of the game, starting out with basketball skills camps to teach the youth the rules of the game. Then, we introduced them to the basketball experience by running… A lot… After the youth had a taste of what a real basketball game might be like, we focused on coming together as a team. What does that look like? We identified natural leaders and showed them how to apply their leadership skills on the court. We talked about the benefits of being part of the team. We also talked a lot about how to play passionately without losing our heads when we’re frustrated. Some of the youth have never played on a team before, so this was very new to them.
On game days, the youth wear their team jerseys to school to demonstrate their pride of being a part of the “Platte Valley Wolves." The school even made signs to show their support for the team. There are many youth waiting to play on the team, so the current team has to work really hard to keep their spot. This means being positive role models and avoiding getting into trouble. So far, the Platte Valley Wolves are scheduled to play a game against youth at two other facilities—Lookout Mountain and Adams Youth Services Centers. As interest grows, we hope to set up more games at other facilities as well.
In addition to the regular team, Platte Valley also started a second team called “The Freshman 5." These youth are those who are passionate about basketball, but have struggled and are not eligible for the regular team due to behaviors and having not yet earned their upper levels. These youth may have a hard time following rules and being a part of “The Freshman 5” helps to give them something to work toward. This team practice with their own team members and also with members of the regular team, but they are only allowed to play at the facility, sometimes having in-house games. As with the regular team, these youth are being guided in similar ways, being shown how to process frustration and how to control themselves when they get upset. “The Freshman 5” also wear their jerseys to show their teammates support and to build pride in themselves.
When asked what benefit he was getting from his participation in the Platte Valley Wolves basketball team, one youth remarked, “It gives me motivation to do better." That is the hope for all the youth who are selected to participate in this new program at our facility. So far, it seems to have been a great thing and we are looking forward to seeing the program grow and finding new ways to encourage positivity through the sport.