OUR STORIES: Holyoke Safe Neighborhood Initiative

Creating Empowering Relationships Through Sports

Ed Caisse, Hampden County Sheriff’s Department, Holyoke Safe Neighborhood Initiative

The Holyoke Safe Neighborhood Initiative is a partnership between law enforcement, local government, community organizations, and the business community to create safe, healthy & economically viable neighborhoods in Holyoke.

We focus a lot of our work on creating activities and opportunities for young people to connect with adults and with each other to build relationships that will strengthen our city. We operate youth sports leagues that have included; baseball, boxing and basketball with hundreds of Holyoke youth participating each year.

I always knew that I wanted my coaches to do more than just coach sports once a week. I wanted them to come with their hearts and support the young people who were coming in to play. Our kids need and deserve that. I know that our leagues offer a safe place to come and I wanted to develop a sense of belonging as an alternative to gangs and other issues that face our city.

Working with Mass Mentoring Partnership has helped us fully understand the importance of the relationships between our coaches and our young players. The training that Beth Fraster and the team at MMP gave our coaches in 2016 has opened our minds to how these relationships can impact our kids way beyond the playing field or court. It gave us a way to think about how we interact with young people and the way we view them and helped us to develop skills and strategies to interact with them. Although we knew coaches were important, we realize that these relationships are a crucial foundation they need to succeed. These relationships will help them each as individuals and will lead to a stronger Holyoke in the future.