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Sport as Prevention? Minneapolis' Experiment with Late-Night Basketball.

Hartmann, Douglas and Darren Wheelock.

A transformation has occurred in youth sport and recreation provision in urban areas since the 1990s. From small experimental programs to citywide summer projects, prison boot camps, and federally funded public-private partnerships, sport-and recreation-based programs have become popular tools for risk prevention and social intervention for young urban men and women of color in recent years. As widespread and wide ranging as these programs are, little is known about why they are so popular, how they work, or whether they are effective. Even for the most famous of all such programs known as midnight basketball leagues largely anecdotal. Desiring to understand the opportunities for risk prevention that such sport-based programs present, the authors of this article became involved with a Twin Cities late-night basketball program initiated by the Minneapolis Department of Health and Family Support called the Stay Alive Program. The article provides a brief overview of the Stay Alive Program, explains various theories of sport as prevention that underlie such programs, identifies some of the implementation problems experienced by Stay Alive organizers, and offers some key findings about the program that can be used as building blocks for future programs. The authors conclude that there are inherent tensions between the demands of a sport-based program and the requirements of its preventionist rationale and that while such programs are useful in reaching out to otherwise hard-to-reach populations, they should not be taken as a satisfactory solution to urban social problems.

CURA Reporter
Publication date: 
Minneapolis: Center for Urban and Regional Affairs, University of Minnesota.
Supported by a grant from CURA's Program for Interactive Research.
32 (3): 13-17.
Online availability
Download from CURA: 
CURA call number: 
Reporter 32 (3)