It’s been two years since Hi-Five Sports Zone opened its doors at 5411 Geary near 18th Avenue, taking over a large space that was formerly a Walgreen’s. The space had been vacant for several years, during which a nasty battle took place over a Petco store taking occupancy. So residents were relieved when Hi-Five finally opened its doors in June 2014.
Hi-Five was a well-established business by 2014, offering sports camps, leagues and events for kids aged 2-10 years around the Bay Area and in Arizona. But Geary was their first brick and mortar location, and they chose the Richmond District because of it’s high population of families and its suitability for “a unique family sports entertainment destination for the city,” Hi-Five CEO Ryan Tuchman told us back in 2014.
Fast forward two years and Hi-Five is not only providing much-needed athletic programs for kids in the Richmond District, but it has also stepped up to become a valuable member of the community.
The Geary location is run by Chris Tabarez, or “Coach T” as the kids call him. He’s a former San Francisco State Gator and played professional basketball in Mexico. He’s also been an elementary school teacher, coach, and Athletic Director.
Tabarez, who lives in the Richmond District with his wife and young baby, says Hi-Five’s focus is on athletic development for kids aged 4 to 8 years – “we want to be the neighborhood gym”. Their 5,000 square foot venue offers sports leagues, camps, after-school programs and hosts private events like kids’ birthday parties.“We learned a lot in the first year, especially about the needs of the community,” Tabarez said.
In addition to learning how to run their first storefront, Tabarez says they found creative ways to drive business and provide value to families and schools in the neighborhood.
For busy working parents, Hi-Five has become a trusted place for after-school and summer fun for their kids.
Hi-Five’s camps have been bursting at the seams. Tabarez says that with the varying schedules of public schools, they’ve purposely offered a flexible camp schedule that covers it all, even for those kids that go back to school later in the year.
“When parents or a specific school asks, we’ll even set up camps for special school holidays,” Tabarez said.
During the school year, Hi-Five’s van picks up kids at nearby schools like Argonne Elementary and brings them back to the Geary location for activities like basketball, floor hockey, and indoor soccer.
For Argonne’s upcoming Back to School Night, Hi-Five will provide free childcare for the event, giving parents peace of mind so they can focus on the new school year.
The versatile interior at Hi-Five’s Geary location makes it easy for the venue to support a variety of sports including basketball, flag football, soccer, teeball, kickball and more. The large court can split into two basketball courts for league play, and basket heights are adjustable to support any level of player.
“Basketball has been extremely popular with the resurgence of the Warriors,” Tabarez said. A life-size, dribbling Steph Curry is on the back wall and though coincidental, the blue and yellow colors of the Hi-Five equipment echoes the championship team.
“The kids are so excited about the Warriors, I don’t have the heart to tell them that the team was really pretty bad for a long time,” Tabarez says with a laugh.
Hi-Five has also become a popular spot for birthday parties in the neighborhood. The birthday boy or girl can choose from a menu of activities which includes a bouncy house, and food is ordered in from local businesses to feed the hungry athletes. “Pizza is the go-to for most parties,” Tabarez says.
Since the kids running around at Hi-Five are young, Tabarez says their primary goal is to make sports fun for everyone. “Sports equals fun…equals Hi-Five. That’s our goal.”
That means easing kids into the rules, but not foregoing them. In Hi-Five’s Sunday basketball league for K-2 aged kids, the 10 week program starts with lots of instruction on fundamental skills and how the game works.
“By week 5, they’re playing real basketball – passing, dribbling, moving around the court,” Tabarez says. “Even the most disinterested kid is really into the game by the end of the league.”
Sportsmanship is an important part of playing at Hi-Five, and Tabarez and his team reinforce healthy habits with a reward system of “Murphy Coins”.
Named for Hi-Five’s canine mascot, Murphy, kids can earn coins for a variety of achievements and good deeds like attendance, helping others, or learning a new skill. Kids can then cash their coins in at the “Murphy Mart” for prizes like tattoos, rubber duckies and frisbees, or hoard their coins to cash in for bigger items like a Hi-Five basketball (50 coins).
When asked how Hi-Five counters the oft-criticized “every kid is a winner!” mentality of Generation Z parents, Tabarez says that while every kid gets something for participating, there is a purposeful distinction between “champion, second place, and everybody else.”
“We want them to know they’re champions when they win, and that second place didn’t do as well. We use sports situations to show life lessons,” Tabarez says. “When you’re clear and consistent, and show them examples, the kids understand.”
Right now, Tabarez says their participants are about 80% boys, 20% girls, but they hope to even that out in the future. “We’re working on setting up an all-girls basketball league for starters.”
This year, Hi-Five is also sponsoring the Richmond District Jog in the Fog 5k so expect to see Murphy milling around the finish line giving out high-fives to finishers. They’re also sponsoring a special challenge along the course where participants can earn a prize for completion.
“The biggest thing for Hi-Five is assuring families that their kids are safe and having fun,” Tabarez says.
I think it’s safe to say that after just two years in the neighborhood, it’s mission accomplished for Hi-Five.
Special Offer for Blog Readers
Hi-Five is also offering a special discount for Richmond Blog readers. Enter the code RICHMONDBLOG at checkout on their website when registering for camps or leagues, or reserving a birthday party. You’ll receive 10% off your purchase. The offer is valid until 1/1/17 and note that parties must take place (not just booked) before January 1st to be eligible for the discount.