For the past several years, Downtown Silver Spring has become a hub for things to do, cultural events, and places to hang out, and many travel near and far to take advantage of everything it has to offer. But some believe that teenagers aren’t welcome in the area from reports of rowdy behavior, although those claims have been heavily challenged.
To keep teens from feeling like outsiders, Councilmember Cherri Branson’s office, along with the Montgomery County Recreation Department, IMPACT Silver Spring and others have created Audacity of Hoops, a 3-on-3 basketball tournament held on Ellsworth Drive right next to Veteran’s Plaza. Saturday marked the event’s 4th anniversary.
Ronnie Galvin, executive director of Impact Silver Spring, said the hoops tournament is about allowing young people to feel like they’re a part of the Downtown Silver Spring community.
“We were trying to create a venue in the middle of Downtown Silver Spring, which is one of the biggest civic spaces in the county, to really say to our young people that ‘this space is for you too,’” he said. “There was a lot of talk about four or five years ago about gang violence, and some of our young people, particularly young people of color, are being kind of mis-characterized in the media, and there were a lot of folks who were kind of sending out a spirit, saying that our young people weren’t welcomed in Downtown Silver Spring.”
High school students and young adults from all over the county participated in the double-elimination tournament and the winning team got a trophy at the end. There was an adult tournament for ages 19 and up, a girls tournament for ages 14-18 and boys teams ages 14-18.
In addition to the 3-on-3 play, there was a slam-dunk contest, a free-throw shooting contest, a DJ on hand and other things to enjoy. Chick-fil-A provided free food as people gave spoken word performances.
Galvin said he got the Audacity of Hoops idea from a program he used to work with in Atlanta. Sports, he said, is the perfect way to build community and use as a springboard to discuss important issues that affect young people.
“Montgomery County is such a wonderful place, we’ve got people from all over the world here, and it’s not a foregone conclusion that living in a place with so many people, from all over the world, just happens automatically,” he said. “It really takes a level of skill and will to live in a diverse community, but what we know is that sports make it a whole lot easier.”
Adriane Clutter, the youth development manager for the recreation department, agreed with Galvin and said the tournament is really a celebration of young people.
“It’s neat because you also have some public service workers coming out to play in the adult tournament, and to engage,” Clutter said. “It gives the folks from Fire and Rescue and folks from the Civic Center and Recreation Department and the Councilwoman’s office to get out and play with the community. That’s probably my favorite part, not only the staff engaging with the young people, but having adults out here as well engaging with the community.”
Branson said Audacity of Hoops is all about local businesses and Silver Spring’s nonprofit community coming together to lend their support.
“It’s really about getting together and showing that we play together and we work together,” she said. “That’s who we are in Montgomery County.”