Clarkston First Baptist Church is inviting young men of the community to utilize one type of "court" this summer, the basketball court, in hopes of possibly preventing them from having to appear in another type "court," the courtroom.
In response to a call from DeKalb County Public Safety Director Cedric Alexander, PhD. seeking activities that the county's faith-based community could develop to keep young men off the street and involved in a worthwhile activity prior to the county's midnight curfew, the church created a Friday evening basketball program.
"Dr. Alexander was seeking ways to get the faith-based community to help respond to concerns community residents expressed to our police department regarding young people who were, it seemed, aimlessly walking the streets of DeKalb County at night, which could lead to unlawful activity for some," said Pastor Karl Moore of Clarkston First Baptist Church.
The church's boys basketball program developed from this request and is held each Friday evening at the church's Family Life Center, 4007 Church St. beginning at 7:30 p.m.
Although the church relied mainly on word-of-mouth and flyers to get the information out to the Clarkston community about the program, the response has been great, Moore said.
"The first night we offered this activity, we had maybe 12 players to attend," he said.
"Now that it is under way, we are averaging 30 to 35 each Friday evening, and we hope to draw many more before school begins for the 2016-2017 school year."
The church selected Friday evening for its basketball program due to this being one of the worst nights for DeKalb County youth to be on the street, Moore said.
However, he stopped short of calling this program a basketball league as there are no set team rosters, no standing or won-loss records are kept and no prizes or trophies are awarded.
The safety of the players and others attending the games is of upmost concern to church officials.
"The backpacks and other bags the boys and others attending the game bring with them are checked before anyone is allowed to enter the basketball court area," Moore said.
The way this program operates is that, prior to the basketball games, church officials make sure that waiver documents and permission slips are signed by parents.
After these documents are compiled, the young men who show up for the Friday night basketball program are divided into teams based on skill level, Moore said.
"These teams play one another in games which last 10 minutes," he said.
The winner of each game then remains on the floor to face another team in a second 10-minute game.
After the second game is played, two new teams take the floor with the same procedure in place.
"We keep rotating the teams until about 11:30 p.m., making sure that all those who attend will participate," Moore said.
"This program gives kids an outlet to gather together on a Friday evening and engage in a good, organized program held in a controlled environment which prevents them from having any idle time to spend on the streets of DeKalb County."
Bobby Jones, athletic program director for the church, said attendance has been good and expects may more participants to come out for the evening basketball program once the word really gets out.
The games are very fast-paced due, in part, to the 10-minute per game time limit, with those attending seem to enjoy, he said.
"Several different churches in the area responded to Dr. Alexander's request, but did not have the facilities to handle such a program," Jones said.
"However, we did have the basketball court here at our church and these churches asked us if we could make it available to the community, which we readily did."
At first, the players were a little standoffish, Jones said, but once they investigated and played games which were part of the program, that changed rapidly.
"They loved it, especially with how fast-paced the games were with each lasting no more than 10 minutes," he said. "Everyone is going to play 3-4 games during any one Friday evening, so time off the court is kept to a minimum."
The longest a player will sit before returning to the court for another game is 20 minutes, Jones said.
For more information, call (404) 292-5686.