La Liga del Barrio (LLDB) was founded in January of 2000 as a program of the Philadelphia Sixers. LLDB Neighborhood league was founded in January 2000 and it evolved out of phone call Councilman Ortiz received from then Sixers GM Pat Croce who said “Angel, I’m sitting here watching the Puerto RIcan Day parade and I didn’t know there were so many Puerto RIcans in Philadelphia! What can we (Sixers) do to help your community?” Councilman Ortiz replied “we need a basketball league for our kids to keep them off the corners!” Councilman Ortiz, led by Raymond Alvarez, Juan “Johnny” Santiago, Israel Rolon, Israel Colon and Marilyn Martinez-Perez with a representative body of Latino sports enthusiasts and educators created La Liga. Both the Sixers and Ortiz shared a vision of using basketball and sports as a means to engage young people from the inner city in organized after-school activity.
La Liga’s fundamental purpose is to promote educational achievement, discipline, and inclusion for all religious denominations, peer group socialization, and collaboration. More overtly, it seeks to help in the development of basketball skills, the physical and mental preparation the sport demands and the basic enjoyment of a great sport. The fact that the 76ers sponsored LLDB since its inception presented a unique opportunity for Latino youth to appreciate the dynamic and animated tradition of the 76er’s professional franchise. LLDB looks forward to receiving the same support from any foundations or individual donors that want to advance Liga’s mission.
The Latino community continues to be the fastest growing and youngest sector of our city’s population. The Latino community, however, has faced serious adverse social and economic conditions with the recent rise in gun violence in the city of Philadelphia. As a result, the recent increase in youth crime across the city and the disproportionately high poverty and educational dropout rates are among the challenges these young people face in our city. Despite this, Latinos have been making progress. Labor participation rates have increased and educational achievement levels have experienced steady improvements. But as most studies will indicate, a lack of after school programming and recreational activity has left a generation of young people open to the adverse temptations posed by the culture of some of our most poverty-stricken inner-city streets. Organized sports, complemented by alternative educational programming have proven to be an effective response in filling this vacuum. For Latinos in particular, sports are not simply a pastime – it is an integral part of our heritage. It represents a unique venue that promotes healthy competition, mutual respect and teamwork.
The league currently manages 36 teams (12 girls & 24 boys’ teams) on average consisting of 10-12 youth per team.
During each project year there is a tournament per season, each team playing a total of nine regular season games followed by the playoffs and Championship games (usually beginning in the winter and ending in the Spring). The league registers up to 380 young people for the season. Demand for the league always creates a waiting list which is used to fill any gaps as they occur and in 2021 we added another division for the older age groups (19-25). Liga's training for coaches is provided by Philadelphia Youth Sports Collaborative (PYSC) and Positive Coaching Alliance, the training taught to our coaches establishes a viable motivational presence among the youth. Over the years the Sixers have consistently provided entertainment at our opening tip-off ceremonies, where over 500 parents and children participate, Sixers' representatives, the flight squad and dance dream teams usually commence the event. Our current hosts and community partners for our games are Nueva Esperanza and Mariana Bracetti Academy Charter School's gymnasium (4261 N. 5th Street and 1840 Torresdale Avenue, respectively) used for regulation games and championship games. Our Alumni League host is Feltonville Recreation Center (221 E. Wyoming Avenue).
Integral to the objectives of the league is the expectation that academic and behavioral performance will improve as a direct result of youth participation in the league. Organized sports programs have been known to instill a positive culture of individual discipline and motivation fundamental to success, both within and outside the classroom. To monitor this performance, the league requires a weekly progress rating report filled out by a participating teacher. Youth are rated on a one to ten basis (10 being excellent). This report is then reviewed and signed by the youth/student, the parent and the team coach. Any rating below a six (6) automatically triggers intervention with the youth and also establishes the student-athlete’s participation level in the respective games. Additionally, deficiencies in the progress reports could result in referrals to community and educational agencies for appropriate support.
The league is run by its newly found board of directors and a volunteer based Commission. The Commission is made of honorary Commissioners, the board President Raymond Alvarez, and four board of Directors/Commissioners (Esther Alvarez, Jarry Adorno, Luis A. Negron, Sr., and Michael Henry). The Commission is responsible for league schedules, the monitoring and enforcement of all rules, criteria, and regulations. The League President and coordinator is Raymond Alvarez, an experienced sports organizer in the Latino community who is well known for his work with La Liga del Barrio’s highly successful past twenty-two (22) seasons, and who was recognized on March 26, 2015, by the City of Philadelphia City Council with a Citation for his 15 years of loyal and dedicated service to the community. Most recently Raymond and Esther Alvarez accepted the Governor's Hispanic Heritage Month Lifetime Achievement Award. To date, on average, the league recruits 82 men and women volunteers who are responsible for the core operations of the leagues’ games. This includes 64 Coaches and assistants, and 18-32 volunteers that serve as Team Moms/chaperones, scorekeepers, and timekeepers.
LLDB's season registration usually begins on or about the end of September, followed by scrimmages on or about early December and culminates its season approximately on or about late April.