Play-based summer program benefits kids in Indy’s Brookside community

A basketball clinic in the Brookside neighborhood is coaching more than just jump shots.

“What we learned in working with the children in our community, is that especially from a high poverty neighborhood like ours, the kids suffer from trauma and so play-based therapy actually helps them relieve that trauma mentality and move into a place of development where safety is created,” Andrew Neal, director of Brookside Community Play, explained. “That’s why it’s important that we focus on play and the powerful aspects of that, especially youth based sports development.”

This basketball camp is just one of many free play-based programs for kids kindergarten to sixth grade throughout the summer. And the kids’ development is measured beyond their improvement on the court.

"I'm not really a good basketball player, but I've gotten used to it, since they teach you and show you how to do it, so I do a lot of stuff here, that's why I love coming here,” said Angelic Harris, who participates in Brookside’s summer camps and afterschool programs.

"We use something called the Devereaux Assessment, where we are able to observe if they are becoming better teammates, if they're growing in confidence, if they're being able to communicate more clearly to those around them,” Neal said, “and what we are seeing is 80 percent of the kids we work with are growing."

Brookside Community Development was recently awarded a $100,000 grant from the Impact 100 organization, which will go toward expanding its programming for middle school and high school students and offer more opportunities for mentoring, academic support and job training.

"A lot of these kids have come up through our elementary after school program already, and so what you'll see is we are actually able to hire these teenagers back on to serve as the coach mentors for our younger kids,” Neal said. "We think it's going to be a great opportunity to infuse in our younger kids but also to develop hopefully the most employable teenagers that our city sees."