About 380 boys and girls competed in the 3-on-3 Basketball Championship Tournament, part of the Harris County Precinct One Street Olympics Summer Games, July 19-20 at Fonde Recreation Center.
The single-elimination tournament, which featured 96 teams with Houston-area youth ages 7 to 17, is the first of three major events for the Summer Games. First- and second-place trophies were awarded to teams in five divisions, four of which had male and female brackets.
In addition to the athletics, the tournament competition and the other Street Olympics events teach youth leadership, discipline and the value of teamwork.
“Basketball is a team sport,” said Harris County Commissioner Rodney Ellis. “And so is life. We put on this tournament to give the children that competitive edge on the court – and in life.”
In the past five weeks of preliminary rounds, more than 500 boys and girls at 90 Street Olympics’ participating agencies’ sites competed for the opportunity to play in the championship tournament.
“It feels good,” said Sheila Phillips after her Finnigan Youth Education Town team won first place in the girls’ Division III.
Thomas Young, whose Clinton Park Community Center’s team won the boys’ Division II, said he worked hard to get to the tournament and to win the championship.
“It feels nice,” he said. “I feel like Stef Curry (Golden State Warriors guard).”
On June 20, Lilianna Barcenas, 14, who plays for Independence Heights, and her two teammates, won the girls Division IV championship on their first time in the 3-on-3 tournament. Lilianna said the trio plays on a Shooting Starz team, which has a record of 48-0.
“It was good,” she said of her 3-on-3 championship. “It’s our first time winning the 3-on-3. I really liked it (competition).”
Founded in 1986, the free, nonprofit Street Olympics has touched the lives of thousands of Houston-area youth and young adults by providing organized sports. In addition to basketball, the Summer Games include competition in “street games” such as jacks, Hula Hoop, kickball, jump rope and foot races. On Aug. 4, about 2,000 boys and girls will compete for “gold, silver and bronze medals” in an Olympic-style Final Event.
The Harris County Aquatics Program, which is under the Street Olympics’ umbrella, offers Learn-to-Swim lessons and competitive swimming. On July 28, about 150 children will participate in Splashdown, a friendly swim meet.
In addition, the Street Olympics provides educational opportunities through its Environmental Education Program, which includes Discovery Camp during the summer and the year-round Traveling Naturalists that both teach children about the environment and animal habitats.
“The children’s parents, many of whom work during the summer days, do not have the extra money to pay for elaborate summer camps and other activities,” Commissioner Ellis said. “That’s why it’s essential for the Street Olympics to provide safe outlets with constructive activities.”