Immigrants And Refugees

Virtual Basketball? Hoop Haven Makes It Possible

Hoop Haven Kids running basketbal drills in January 2020

Covid-19 has a significant impact on the youth programs at the Alianza division of Catholic Charities Community Services. Alianza Youth Services focus on strengthening academic achievement, health, fitness, and artistic expression in nearly 27,000 young people. They do this by promoting employment, college readiness, college entry, civic engagement and community services. But naturally, in-person meetings and activities have had to change.

One program in particular is proving how innovative Alianza can be and that is the Hoop Haven program.

Hoop Haven is a basketball program operated by Alianza. While it may seem just like an activity for kids on the surface, underneath it is a vital mechanism for connecting kids and parents with case management and growth. It gives kids a place to belong and teaches them teamwork and socialization.

According to Julia Smith, director of Hoop Haven, “We have found that this is an important time to engage our participants as well as their parents by providing as many resources, support and information possible. The Coach of Hoop Haven has coordinated virtual work out sessions and instruction that participants can take part in while following the CDC guidelines on social distancing.” 

The Hoop Haven program is engaging their high school seniors through virtual video meetings with advocates and case managers to assist them with enrolling in college and prep schools. But the real innovation is how the Hoop Haven coach has implemented video tutorials and training sessions for the kids. 


Staff are also speaking with parents more and so are able to better understand family needs. Staff continues to work with the 172 enrolled in the program by reaching out to each of the participants by phone, providing support, resources and guidance regarding academics and healthy activities.

Once New York City comes off of “pause”, the program will probably look differently:

  • Case management and parent meetings will continue virtually 
  • There will be basketball skill sessions with no more than 10 students in the gym to allow for adequate distancing
  • Each Participant will be given their own schedule for their work outs.
  • To develop new levels of quality, the program will engage alumni, college athletes and NBA athletes as guests

The children of New York City will continue to benefit from a new kind of socialization and engagement because Catholic Charities understands the value it has to them and their families.