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OneHood Spotlight: Hoops and Hope

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As we finish up our month-long endeavour to feature our outstanding Youth Development Program, we decided to sit down with Youth Coordinator Angel Lopez and star player Erik Ramirez to talk about their involvement with the OneHood Peace Basketball League. Angel coached for nine years before taking on responsibility of coordinating the entire league. Now in its 12th year, OneHood brings young people from different neighborhoods in Boston together to play basketball every summer. What would seem like a fun pastime to most is actually a major source of inspiration and connection for people in our community:

How did you both get involved with the OneHood Program?

Angel: This all started with a partnership between IBA and the BCYF Blackstone Community Center. One day I was out here and David Kay from IBA came out here and said, “hey, what do you think about coaching basketball?” I was torn at the time because I enjoyed playing basketball but I was also playing baseball at the time so I didn’t really know what I wanted to do. Once I got into it, forget about it. I’ve been doing it for over eight or nine years now. I kept going with it because it was fun. I always liked playing with kids, showing them new things, and when I started I realized I’d been working with kids my whole life–I just never realized.  

Erik: I first got involved with Angel. We were just playing around and he told me, “oh, you’re the perfect fit, the perfect age,” and that I could “play with other teams, show them your talent,” because he knows I shoot a lot. So I decided to sign up!

How would you describe OneHood to someone?

Erik: I would just say it’s like a family, honestly. There’s a good connection with everybody. Even if you don’t know them, you’ll get to know them as soon as you start playing with them. I was a shy person before I started this. I didn’t really talk to nobody, I kind of kept to myself. But once I got involved with OneHood, talking to other teams, it opened me up alot and made me a better person.

Angel: Same with me. It is a family. I still got kids to this day that call me coach and I haven’t coached in about five years. It’s a different type of family though. Whatever problem you got at home you can leave there and come here just to focus and have fun and you don’t have to worry about your daily life. This is something you can use to just relax. It’s a stress-free environment.

Angel, how has Erik changed since he started the program?

Angel: He really was real shy. We wouldn’t even speak when he first started, he’d be just standing in a corner and I was like, “dude, you’re gonna have to talk to your team to get them to trust you.” As soon as I said that, he’s built confidence over the years because at the end of the day, he can shoot! And a lot of people saw that so they started letting him know that they’d back him up, like “go over here, we got you.” After that, Erik started connecting with everybody.

Why is OneHood important to this community?  

Angel: Like I said, I see it as a way of getting out of your daily life. There’s a lot of kids out here dealing with stuff that we don’t know about and basketball is a way for them to get out of it. You can use basketball as way to not to get into trouble. I just see it as something good cause it brings everyone together from different communities so everyone can just sit and enjoy the games. The fan base makes everything so much better because it brings that sense of community.

What is your favorite part of being in this program?

Erik: Well shooting the ball, obviously! (laughs) But also meeting new people because back then I did not care about nobody, I kept to myself like I said but now I really like meeting new people and talking about their talents, what we can do to make the game better. We try to stay away from trouble and it helps me alot to express my feelings, talk to coaches. They’re more like mentors.

Angel, what do you envision for this program in the next 10 years?

Angel: I hope it’s still going! I know sometimes these things catch fire and then all of a sudden people lose interest. I wish it could be a bigger thing but I know sometimes when things get bigger it just messes up the whole message. So I guess I just hope it sticks to the message of what it is: a safe environment for kids in the community to come and watch and have fun.

Erik, where do you hope this program will take you?

Erik: This is my last year but I think I’d like to come back to be one of the coaches or something like that to help kids who were like me, to help them come out of the box. I just wanna talk to other kids and try to have them play sports and get active so they don’t get into all the nonsense going on.

Angel: You know, I think I know someone who could make that happen.

Erik: Who?

Angel: Me!

If you want to experience the excitement of a OneHood game yourself, RSVP to our Facebook Event and show your support at our tournaments! Your presence means the world to our players. For young people interested in getting involved, you can contact Angel at alopez@ibaboston.org or (617)-535-1756.

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