Hundreds of students took over a Staten Island high school this weekend for a basketball competition called the "Unity Games," which teaches kids that it's not about winning, it's how they play the game. NY1's Natalie Duddridge filed the following report.
The Rebels basketball team is rallying before they face off at the Unity Games.
Hundreds of students from across the city and country took over Susan Wagner High School to take part in a weekend of sports and activities aimed at building success.
"To help ourselves in life and play basketball," said one of the students.
The games' founders say basketball is just the catch to get kids here. And then, beyond the hoops, there's some homework. Even more, there are workshops about overcoming obstacles, bullying and diversity.
"If someone passes you the ball, doesn't matter who they are, what they look like, because it's so easy to bond over a basketball," said Benjamin, a volunteer coach.
Here, the team-building teaches kids it's not about the "winning," it's about the "taking part."
"Learning life skills that you'll always have, that's always needed, and making friends that you're never going to forget," said another young basketball player.
The program has been running for 14 years. It started when the founders, two friends and coaches, saw a way to use sports to educate kids beyond the scoreboard. That created the Unity Games.
“We both had basketball teams of different races. We brought them together, and we realized it wasn't enough. And from that little idea, the Unity Games blossomed,” said co-founder Dr. Mark Sherman.
The Unity Games have been so successful on Staten Island that founders are hoping to expand the program nationally and have it in every NBA city across the country.
Many former participants say they love the games so much, they come year after year to give back.
"The community. That's what's said Bree, one of the senior volunteers.
Some volunteers are also proving the games span generations, with one longtime volunteer introducing her godson to the program.
"He's not used to being around a lot of kids, and this is a good exposure for him," she said.
"It doesn't matter if you lose or win. It matters if you have fun," said one participant.
Founders say they've won when they see the kids playing it forward.