Background: Many youth benefit greatly from sports, physically and mentally. There are strict requirements of organized sports including: weight limits, financial obligations and behavioral/conduct expectations. There are times when youth with behavioral health needs, although are talented, have difficulty managing their behaviors in practice and in school and therefore, cannot participate in sports which greatly can assist them manage their behavior and grow in confidence and skill.
In the community, football is a big event with an annual parade and much community support. Unfortunately, many youth could not play community football because they were overweight; their families could not afford to pay or could not participate as much as required and because the youth struggled to manage their behaviors. As a result, there was a group of talented, interested youth that could not participate in the sport. Because of the need for an alternative, Hamilton Knights started.
Description: Hamilton Knights is a football program that engages youth that cannot participate in mainstream sports due to economics, limited family participation, obesity, and behavior. This is an alternative football program that engages youth with behavioral health needs and other challenges such as limited resources to participate. The program links families to services and resources through their volunteers.
The program brings youth with varying needs, including behavioral health, together in a “normalized” athletic activity creating team building and “normalcy” between those with needs and those without. Any family that needs assistance receives assistance – including childcare, transportation, food, clothing, shelter and support with enrolling in programs and with school. Football coaches and volunteers provide support and discipline (such as extra laps or not playing as much) for challenging behavior.
There are no weight limits so youth that are overweight and should be encouraged to be active can be active in an organized sport and do not have to be ostracized. Also, the organization does not “market” itself as the team for those that are non-traditional athletes or those that cannot play in the regular town team. The league is a part of the Police Athletic League and markets itself as a league for ALL youth therefore eliminating stigma and promoting a diverse team where youth with no needs and youth with needs learn how to interact and become a strong team.
Population of Focus: Black or African American, Hispanic or Latino, White, Adolescents, Children
Setting: Community health center, Parks & recreaction, Suburban, Urban
Level of Intervention: Family, Individual, Community
Jeremy Taylor, President of the League and JV Coach
Hamilton Knights Football
16 Hilltop CircleMays Landing, NJ 08330