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For 18 Seasons, Night Hoops is developing Inner City Leaders

18 years

The mission is to encourage healthy life choices for youth through the context of a pro-social late-night basketball program. But the personal growth and development does not end there.

Vancouver and Burnaby, B.C. – The Night Hoops Basketball Program is thrilled to be celebrating 18 seasons in 2014. Thanks to the help of their sponsors and the ‘Play It Forward’ campaign, the non-profit basketball program continues to support inner city youth, teach them ‘Life Skills’ and develop leaders from within.

The Night Hoops program is a community-based league for 13 to 18 years old youth and runs primarily on weekend evenings. The goal is to use basketball as a vehicle to promote asset development in a supportive environment. Currently there are three divisions: Junior Girls, Junior Boys, and Senior Boys. The plan is to expand with a Senior Girls division next season. There are no cuts, it is free for all players and the program is active in Vancouver and Burnaby.

This year the Night Hoops Basketball program has helped many jump from player to coach, and from coach to coordinator. Here are three such stories.

Riya Talwar, a Windermere Secondary School Alumni and 2013 Night Hoops Community Development Scholarship recipient, was asked to join Night Hoops in her senior year. The summer prior, Riya was working as a Junior Staff Worker at Collingwood Neighbourhood House when a group of grade 9 girls encouraged her to join the team. This was Riya’s first extracurricular program not attached to her school. For years, she was an avid baller on the school grounds.

The team bonding on away game trips is a favourite memory for Riya. Each Saturday game night the team would set out together from Collingwood to the destination gym in Vancouver or Burnaby. They would adjust seats, chat and listen to good music - connecting as a unit.

This 2014 season Riya returned looking to connect with the same team. Night Hoops offered her a leadership role as a coach. She gladly accepted and was able to find a mutual understanding with the peers she once played with. The transition from player to coach was made easier because Riya already had respect from the girls, but she had to quickly learn how get them to fully commit to the team. From her experience as a player, Riya realized it was the social aspect that ensured the girls would keep coming out on weekend evenings.

In two seasons with Night Hoops, Riya developed ideals of compassion and fair play.  As a player Riya recognized she had the advantage of age and skill so her instinct was to find ways to highlight her younger teammates. With similar ideals, Coach Riya has found the value in each of her players and is committing to work on each girl’s strengths and weaknesses. 

She signs out, as she did from her senior year, with a quote: "At the end of the day you don't remember the A, you remember the game." 

From the Senior Boys division, Coach Steven Xu has been a part of the program since 2008.  He started out as a 15 year old Chinese-Canadian player who was looking to meet some new friends.  He quickly grew to love the program because of the equal playing time.  Night Hoops allowed him to play on the team, regardless of his skill level, and he wasn’t forced to watch the game from the bench.

While playing for Night Hoops, Steven was comforted to see he was not the only player in a cross-cultural experience. Coach Oliver Li gave Steven the opportunity to be a team captain and taught him how to give back to his community. Steven used this experience to transition into coaching and mentor the next generation of Night Hoops players.

As a coach Steven has stayed true to his goals of using basketball as a tool to help youth.  Specifically, he has used Night Hoops as a way to help new immigrants make new friends, learn English, and adjust to life in Canada. “I was there. I know what they are going through, so I can help them.”

When asked about his favorite memory, Steven brought up a big loss…not a win.  After losing by a large margin, the opposing Night Hoops coach approached and told Steven how he respected their team for working hard and not giving up on the game. Night Hoops showed Steven the rewards of hard work, being a leader, and giving back to your community. Steven admitted, “Leadership comes from experience; you can’t learn that in a text book.”

Steven Xu continues to coach in Night Hoops and is working to develop a summer camp at the Richmond Oval for new immigrants. 

Representing those who have transitioned from player to coach to coordinator is Kavita Dhillon. While in grade 10 Kavita would participate in Friday teen nights at Langara YMCA. When Night Hoops forged a partnership with the site, she had to join the team, which was co-ed at the time.  Kavita states “similar to Riya, I was a competitive player who always wanted to win. Sometimes I had a temper but as a Captain, I was told I had to model poise and calm because a leader’s behaviour is mirrored by the players.” Night Hoops coach Yash Zandiyeh (from Langara YMCA and later Champlain Heights Community Centre) was identified as being a mentor who taught Kavita how to lead and earn the respect of the players.

In 2009, Kavita got her chance to apply her learned leadership skills when she stepped up to coach the Aboriginal team at Britannia Community Centre with Babita Gill. In 2011 she coached the girls at Kensington Community Centre.

As a Coach, Kavita remembers her favourite memories were the Life Skills workshops. With Britannia, “we had a pre-game conversation inside my car. The topic was marijuana. The girls were sharing. We delivered the information and tried to give advice without nagging.”

At Kensington, “the girls were from different schools and this allowed them to bond. We created a talking circle and each girl participated. Cyber-bullying has been a hot topic for years. Another workshop on cancer brought out a lot of emotion and it brought them team together in a whole new way.”

She adds a sarcastic afterthought: “I also I liked making the girls run lines, as my first Coach at Langara did. That coach would make us do 2 sets of towel pushing suicide lines.”

She felt the transition from coach to coordinator was a bit more nerve-wracking because she never sat in a position with so much responsibility. At the first Coach Orientation, it became real during the module on working with vulnerable populations.

Kavita realizes, “Night Hoops is a passion for me and I am proud to be involved in the program development. The game of basketball has truly changed my life and I am honoured to have the opportunity to play it forward.”

The entire Night Hoops team would like to invite you to meet our leaders and youth at the following special events.


HOOP-LAW Charity Basketball Tournament

March 15, 2014 from 8:00AM – 6:00PM at Vancouver College, Gymnasium


HOOP-LAW is heading into its 19th year of battles on the hardwood; an exciting event in the Vancouver legal community, that is dedicated to give back to youth in British Columbian communities. The teams raise funds in order to be able to step on to the court with bragging rights. This year, funds raised will benefit Night Hoops Basketball Society and The Children’s Hearing and Speech Centre of BC.


Night Hoops Skills & Social Event

March 29, 2014 from 5:30PM – 11:00PM at Hillcrest Community Centre

The Skills & Social Event is exactly what it sounds like: an opportunity for all the teams in each of the divisions to come together and show of their skills in fun competitions – somewhat like the NBA All-Star weekend. We invite all of our coaches, players, referees, and their friends and family to come out, socialize, and cheer on their favourite players at one of Vancouver’s newest and most impressive Community Centres.


Night Hoops Championship Event

April 26, 2014 from 4:00PM – 11:00PM at Gladstone Secondary School

The Championship Event has to be the most anticipated evening of the entire season. Understandably so, it’s for the gold! But for Night Hoops, it’s more than that. We invite the VPD, who play a friendly game vs. the Night Hoops Selects (a mix of youth and coaches from different divisions). We also invite media, sponsors, fans, friends and family. There are awards, prizes, pizza and a DJ! Come out and celebrate another season of seeing youth and young adults mature into Community Leaders.

About the Author

Night Hoops Business Development Manager


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