Illinois Inter-Agency Athletic Association
The Illinois Inter-Agency Athletic Association (IIAA) is a Kemmerer Village program supported by DCFS organizing sports and recreational activities for over 1500 youth living in shelters, group homes, foster care, and residential treatment programs throughout Illinois. At risk youth in residential programs from Chicago, Peoria, Rockford, Champaign, East St. Louis, Mount Vernon, and small towns all over Illinois participate in the IIAA. Since 1976 the IIAA’s mission has been to enhance the benefits of residential treatment through the use of therapeutic recreation principles such as developing positive social skills with team sports, self-confidence through achieving physical competency, and the use of healthy activities as a means to cope with stress, anxiety, and depression.
The IIAA programming includes yearly sport’s seasons and state tournaments in soccer, volleyball, basketball, softball, swimming, and track. One day state tournament include bowling and dodge ball. Many of the youth participating would not have the opportunity to participate in organized sports if not for the IIAA. Most of our youth have never been on a team. The IIAA also offers recreational activities like the annual IIAA Arts and Crafts display, a Creative Writing book, and picnic to further help our children grow and experience the normalcy of life. Every January the IIAA provides a two day training conference; “Balls, Bats, and Brains” open to all Child Welfare agency staff across Illinois. Seminars cover topic such as: “How Trauma Impacts Learning and Behavior”, “Recreation and Sports Activities for Kids Affected by Trauma”, and “Music Therapy Tips and Tricks” to name a few. During the training conference a banquet is held honoring the staff that coached teams displaying exemplary sportsmanship in teams sports. It also provides social events during the conference that provide time for sharing ideas and networking with other agency staff.
One of the unique attributes of the IIAA is that Sportsmanship is emphasized and prized above “winning” or “losing” games; so the focus is less on whether you won or lost, but on how the youth handle success or adversity. The content of our character is not defined by winning or losing a contest. We want our youth to understand success is having the peace of mind and self satisfaction in knowing they did the best they could given the situation, and carrying that on to other areas of their life. Poor sportsmanship is never giving your best.
With sportsmanship taken seriously, after every contest each team fills out sportsmanship cards that are turned into the director. At all IIAA state tournament events includes evaluation/feedback from the youth who participate in each event, the referees or umpires officiating the event, adults/staff from the residential facilities, and the facility staff from where the event took place. Consistently and continuously the average rating from all groups is “excellent” as to the value of the event to the youth and its organization.