Volley Against Violence (VAV), a partnership with the Boston Police Department, brings youth of all ages from all over Boston to Sportsmen’s for weekly, free tennis with Sportsmen’s coaches and Boston Police officers. The program takes place on Fridays from 6 to 8PM. VAV began in 2009 with eight participants and one police volunteer and has grown tremendously in the years since. Today, we regularly have over 140 participants on any given Friday night. Through tennis, VAV empowers youth to develop important life skills both on and off the tennis court. Youth participants learn to work as a team, to set and achieve goals, to respect one another, to respect police officers and to resolve conflicts as well as learn the importance of making an effort and trying new things.
Using a life skills curriculum that focuses on their emotional, cognitive and physical development, VAV helps participants to build the tools needed to address conflict and challenges in alternate ways.
The curriculum has five core tenets:
- Respect – emphasis on the importance of including everyone and how to resolve conflicts without violence
- Effort – focus on self-improvement, trying new things and working hard to go the extra mile
- Self-direction – focus on setting personal goals and resisting peer pressure
- Helping – emphasis on being sensitive to others, displaying leadership qualities
- Transference – focus on how to be a role model and carry everything learned to other parts of life including home, school and the community
Using this curriculum at each VAV session, participants work in small groups with staff and volunteers. Each week a topic such as leadership, appreciation or goal setting, is introduced. On a typical Friday night, eight staff and 20 volunteers will lead youth through tennis-based games and activities that build their skills and foster collaboration and teamwork. At the end of the session, participants wrap up with a discussion of what they learned and how it ties in to the topic of the day. Once a month, staff and participants review each of the topics introduced in the previous four weeks. All participants are encouraged to participate in the discussion.