Thursday, March 22, 2007

Youth Promotion

Lauren Bell seals the deal for the Irish.

The girls basketball team at the school where I coach track have made it to their second-consecutive California State title game (Division 3).

The Lady Irish are becoming somewhat of a dynasty, having won eight consecutive divisional titles.

The real story is that many of the athletes at this inner-city private prep school hail from some of San Francisco's most dangerous neighborhoods, including the Bayview, Sunnydale and Alemany public housing projects. This is significant because these areas have been among the hardest hit by a spike in youth-related gun crime.

In order to compete for the team, the students have to maintain a 2.3 GPA (.3 points higher than public schools), and their practice schedules are rigorous, including Saturday practices and frequent weekend traveling. Add to that the 45 minute-plus commute that many of these young women make daily from home to school and sports, and props are in order simply for their effort.

It's hard to truly capture, but these days in San Francisco, like other urban environments, the risk factors for youth to simply get to a game are enormous. Random shootings, lack of resources, poor public transportation options and a punitive "system" often prevent the majority of talented kids from lower socio-economic environments from achieving their best.

When athletes like the Irish do succeed, its to be celebrated. They've shown us nothing but excellent ability and their desire to reach for a goal.