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Pro-Com Athletics and Activities League Giving Troubled Kids a Sporting Chance Written By Jordan Rosenfeld S anta Clara County Probation Officer Jennifer Daughenbaugh knows firsthand the positive benefits of playing team sports as a volleyball player and sports lover—sports bring camaraderie, discipline, learning to get along with others, and to bounce back from hard knocks. She also knows that the kids she has worked with in her 23-year career—many of whom have been sent into the juvenile justice system after being expelled from schools for truancy, behavioral issues, and gang-related participation— rarely have the luxury of reaping these benefits of sports. In 2005 she tossed out the idea that sports would be a great way to keep these kids active and focused in school. She told TODAY , “We put these kids in continuation school where the school day is shorter, where there are no extra-curriculars, and expect them to stay motivated?” . She and several other colleagues informally arranged to have kids from Santa Clara County continuation schools play basketball against each other under the name Pro-Com Athletics and Activities League. Probation staff volunteered as referees, schools provided PE equipment, and a friend in San Jose’s gmh 26 GILROY • MORGAN HILL • SAN MARTIN recreation department loaned her its youth gym every Friday during game season. The early games were such a success that they soon added some volleyball and softball, though she said, “basketball is the anchor.” What began as just an idea quickly picked up speed when everyone saw how much the kids thrived. “Our kids don’t set goals for a whole semester; they are short term. If they come to school every day that week and behave and act respectful, they get to play on Fridays,” she said. A story in the San Jose Mercury News brought an upswing of attention and donations, more volunteer coaches and referees; and physical donations of food and water for tournaments; and a second gym, Wheeler Gym in Gilroy. “Probation doesn’t always get positive press, and neither do these kids, so it was a really great story,” she reminisced. There are now seven teams that play four games on Fridays, ten weeks out of the year. Her own department soon realized the power of the program and threw in money for uniforms and equipment, AUGUST/SEPTEMBER 2018