For many of the kids in the Westminster Police Officer’s Association Hoops program, playing in a basketball league isn’t an option.
“A lot of them aren’t able to afford to pay for a league outside of the Boys & Girls Club,” said Jeovan Davila, chief professional officer at the Boys & Girls Club of Westminster. “It’s a good opportunity for the kids to do something that they wouldn’t otherwise have the opportunity to do.”
“We see a lot of kids [return],” said Westminster Sgt. Scott Gump, who along with Sgt. Mike Harvey runs the program.
About five years ago Gump helped restart Hoops after a six-year hiatus. Their partnership with the Boys & Girls Club of Westminster involves six area elementary and middle schools (and their students).
Gump said the goal of the program is two-fold, including providing a youth sports league for children who wouldn’t otherwise be able to afford to join one. The second is to provide a forum for local kids to see officers out of their uniforms.
“Provide mentorship and let them know that we are normal people that are pillars in the community just like they are,” Gump said.
Officers and dispatchers volunteer their time to coach the children in practice once or twice a week and for games that take place on Saturdays. As part of the program, each child is issued a uniform with their school’s logo. The Westminster Police Officer’s Association sponsored program is free for the kids.
“We have quite a few of them that continue to play,” Davila said. “They’re playing in high school. …They’re playing basketball in college.”
Eighteen coaches and 70 kids participated in the recent season. An All-Star Weekend is held toward the end of the season where the kids play in various contests for prizes such as a skills challenge and shoot-out similar to the NBA All-Star Game.
The final weekend of the season includes competitions between the first- and second-, third- and fourth-, and fifth- and sixth-ranked teams. At the end of the playoffs, the top three teams are awarded medals. Individual medals are awarded to kids as well. Schools with a winning team also receive a plaque with a team photo. Families are invited for the awards ceremony and a barbecue to end the season.
“The WPD, they do a really outstanding job of putting it together and getting everybody involved to help support the league,” Davila said.
Kids get another fun treat in the final weekend: to watch their coaches compete against staff members from the Boys & Girls Club.
“There’s a lot of smack talking about who’s gonna beat who,” Gump said, adding that the cops won this year.
He also said that because those in law enforcement tend to be competitive there’s plenty of fun rivalry that goes on at the agency regarding whose teams are winning.
Beyond the friendly competition, Gump said he enjoys seeing the kids grow and learn in the program. And he’s glad to help the Boys & Girls Club (he worked at one when he was 17).
“I kind of always have a soft spot to work with them,” he said.
Gump said he’s often recognized in the community from his work in the program.
“It’s an icebreaker sometimes,” he said. “I’m glad that I have a positive impact that they still remember me.”