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Angels Athletics named Jr. NBA Program of the Year

Girls in the Angels Athletics program, which recently was named the Program of the Year by Jr. NBA. (Provided photo)

A girls basketball program in Flossmoor has been named the 2021 Jr. NBA Program of the Year Powered by Under Armor. 

Angels Athletics received recognition from the official youth basketball participation program of the NBA for how it worked to keep it’s members engaged during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Now the organization will receive a $5,000 grant to help its members continue to grow on and off the court.

“We were super, super, super excited about this,” said Katrina Crawford, who is a co-founder of the nonprofit with her husband, Marcus. Angels Athletics is dedicated to offering girls in the South Suburbs opportunities to play basketball and resources to develop leadership skills. “The girls of the program are ecstatic as well as our coaches.”

She said the recognition is “confirmation that we are making an impact with the girls and doing something positive,” Crawford added. 

When Governor J.B. Pritzker called on the state to shelter-in-place amid the pandemic in March last year, Katrina, Marcus and others part of the organization wondered what to do. 

“Everything that we designed at that point was based on in-person practices and games and stuff like that,” Marcus said. 

But despite the pandemic, the nonprofit worked to keep young players active and connected to the game through safe programs while still focusing on life skills development by shifting to virtual activities. The organization held virtual workout sessions and invited guest speakers and coaches to talk to the players. They also held a career forum via video conferencing focused on communications and sports media.

In response to the death of George Floyd, who was killed by police in Minneapolis in 2020, the nonprofit held a program co-hosted by players and their parents. They discussed the history of peaceful protest, civil rights and community activism. 

“It was really good to give the girls a platform to share how they were feeling and how they could be a service to the community during a time like that,” Katrina said. 

Additionally, the nonprofit and its members turned to Jr. NBA’s Her Time to Play. This is a virtual curriculum to help girls build confidence, face the challenges of adolescence and learn the values of basketball. It included 12 lessons on topics like healthy eating and nutrition, teamwork, self-confidence, mental wellness, body image and bullying. Each chapter featured a WNBA team and highlighted personal life stories from players.

The curriculum and the other virtual activities were “a godsend during the pandemic,” Katrina said. 

Katrina and Marcus said the grant money will not only help support the nonprofits initiatives but expand them. This includes directing some of the funds toward gym space, tutoring programs for the organization’s members and enhancing its fifth annual leadership conference this summer. 

Angels Athletics got its start 20 years ago as a basketball team founded Gerald Green, who built a traveling team for his daughters and other girls. 

In 2015, Marcus and Katrina brought the program back and expanded by implementing ways to teach leadership and life skills to the girls. Now the program is home to about 200 active families. About 75 to 80 girls participate in travel basketball and the nonprofit has dance and golf programs with about 30 participants in each one. 

Angel Athletics has returned to in-person activities following safety protocols, with the usage of PPE, sanitizing, temperature checks and masks. The nonprofit’s goals in the next five years are to increase its outreach efforts, develop high school level programming, enhance its STEM resources and establish an Angels facility. 

Marcus and Katrina said they also want to develop more partnerships.

To learn more about the program, visit Angelsathleticsinc.com or visit them on Facebook at angelsbballteam.  It can also be reached via email at [email protected]or by phone at 708-402-8326. 

An Angel player drives to the basket during a game at the former H-F Park District Auditorium in 2019. (Chronicle file photo)

 

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