COLUMBIA — This weekend Columbia teenagers will get a chance to compete on the basketball court and potentially come away with more than just a victory. The Think Safe: Love and Basketball Challenge is a tournament aiming to teach teens about sexual health in a new atmosphere.
Columbia Parks & Recreation, as well as six other area sponsors, will be hosting the second annual tournament Friday and Saturday at the Armory Sports Center, 1 S. Seventh St.
The tournament is being held for teens ages 13 to 17 and will incorporate information on healthy lifestyle choices. Ten teams will be competing, and the top three teams will earn medals. A variety of door prizes will be given out, including an mp3 player and video games.
Event organizer Erin Carrillo said the tournament is an event that helps teens have fun as well as make smart decisions. "It is a very informative as well as social way to help them make smart decisions," she said.
Carrillo said many of the players participated in last year's tournament, and some of the participants are also involved in the Moonlight Hoops program.
Maureen Coy, health educator at the Columbia/Boone County Health Department, began the tournament last year after seeing a similar hybrid of seminar and tournament in Kansas City. At the time, Coy was chairwoman of the Teen Pregnancy Prevention Coalition, and she saw a successful program in Kansas City that incorporated a basketball tournament. Coy said she decided to bring it to Columbia because it is challenging to reach young men on topics of sexual health.
Last year's tournament hosted 14 teams, at least three of which are returning for this year's event. There are two girls teams, which will play each other first and then compete against the boys in the finals. A broad market of teens in Columbia was targeted, trying to incorporate not only at-risk teens but also the rest of the community, Carrillo said.
There will be a series of health-focused seminars for the teens on love and relationships. On Friday, area basketball players Rodney Estes and Terrell Turner will speak to the players about staying away from sex, drugs and alcohol to advance in sports and life.
On Saturday morning, there will be a team-to-team interactive theater program featuring skits on "party afterthoughts," followed by a presentation geared toward sexually-transmitted disease prevention by MU staff nurse Akara Ingram.
"The interesting thing about it is the mix of kids who may not usually play with one another," Coy said.
The goal for next year is to try to change the date further from the Show-Me State Games, she said.
Coy said she hopes this would allow more community involvement from participants in the Show-Me Games and the Columbia Youth Basketball Association.
In addition to Parks & Recreation, the program is sponsored by the Youth Community Coalition, The Boone Electric Community Trust and the First Ward Ambassadors, Columbia/Boone County Health Department, Urban Empowerment, United Community Cathedral and the Boone County Community Partnership and Center for Adolescent Sexuality, Pregnancy and Prevention. The 2010 Census donated T-shirts for the players.
The opening ceremony will take place at 5:30 p.m. Friday, and games will last until 10:30 p.m. Saturday's events will take place from 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.
For more information, call Parks & Recreation at 874-7460.