Local youth threw on their NYPD 63rd Precinct Blue Chips jerseys and demonstrated teamwork and prowess on the basketball courts of Marine Park on Saturday as they played in an Amateur Athletic Union (AAU) basketball tournament over the Labor Day Weekend.
Blue Chips is a part of the many youth programs offered by the NYPD. “We coach and mentor them and give them advice to encourage them to better themselves in life and to grow into a great individual,” said Officer Simon.
Both he and Officer Guerrero have been working as coaches with about 15 youths, ages 17-19, for about two years. Some are referred, while others are recruited from the schools, parks and neighborhood. They compete with other precincts as well as in special tournaments like this one, hosted and organized by AAU sports team, New York Stones.
But it’s not just about basketball. To be in the program, the teens had to perform volunteer work in the community. They have done cleanups, graffiti removal, toy drives and helped out at the historic Lott House in Marine Park.
Both youth and officers have formed close bonds. “We tell them that we’ll always be there for them if they need anything,” said Simon. “They have our phone numbers and can reach out, and we’ll help them in any way we can.”
Simon said that some of his Blue Chips would like to enter the NBA, while others aspire to become doctors or engineers. “We tell them every day to keep working toward it and you’ll definitely get there,” he said. “It takes time because nothing happens overnight.”
Five of the members played off against two other AAU teams, Park Slope’s Chop Nation and Downtown Manhattan’s Pro Level, losing one and winning the other. What matters is that they gave it their best effort; by their involvement in this program and in helping their community, they are already winning in the game of life.