To get more girls interested in sports and sports careers, one Club is running a girls’ basketball program that mixes the game’s fundamentals with inspirational guest speakers and soft skill development.
How do we get more girls into sports?
On the basketball court at Boys & Girls Clubs of Western Pennsylvania, the girls know how to dribble, pass and take the shot. But just as importantly, they know all their teammates’ names by heart, they make eye contact with their peers, coaches and guests, and they openly discuss what it means to be a good teammate and a strong team. Utilizing all these skills intentionally – from basketball drills to soft skills – is how they see success on and off the court.
The Club’s See Her Be Her Girls Basketball Academy seeks to make empowering girls’ sports programming that combines basketball fundamentals with inspirational guest speakers and valuable life lessons.
The volunteer coaching staff are all women from different backgrounds, including the Club’s Youth of the Year and high school senior, Aislin M., who ranks as the 72nd best high school basketball player in the nation. In both virtual and in-person formats, guest speakers ranging from WNBA players to women who work in sports-related careers like WBNA front offices share their experiences and advice to the girls. The program recently featured mixed-media journalist and women empowerment advocate Arielle Chambers, who Forbes named on their “30 Under 30 – Sports” list for 2021.
10-year-old See Her Be Her participant Dina C. says, “Meeting such strong female leaders gave me more knowledge and a lot more confidence, thinking that I, too, can achieve what they have achieved.” Some of the advice she’s taken from one of the program’s guest speakers? “Always have confidence in yourself. It isn't just about being tall in basketball. If you work hard and develop the skills you can be a good player, and a good person for that matter.”
For program creator and head coach Liz Stieg, who played college basketball herself before transitioning to college coaching, this is the program she would’ve wanted to have when she was growing up. “Sports have played such an important role in my life and have given me many tools to be successful,” she says. Bringing in inspiring female guest speakers was a critical part of creating the program and empowering girls to broaden their perspectives on careers and opportunities within the sports industry. “It’s important to me that these stories are shared and passed down to today’s girls. Understanding that sports aren’t only for boys matters. Building confidence matters. Representation matters.”
With guest speakers and coaches sharing their personal journeys in basketball and beyond, See Her Be Her participants gain exposure to the wide breadth of athletics career opportunities. Their passion for sports doesn’t have to begin and end on the court.
Ranging from 4th grade to 8th grade, they’re also learning that no matter your age or background, you have to work together to play a great game. Younger girls may start off intimidated by the older girls, but as Stieg reminds them, on high school or college teams players can range four years apart, too. When you’re in the gym together, it’s time to get on the same level. To build up respect and understanding, they bump elbows or shake hands and practice looking each other in the eye, sharing their names and repeating their teammates’ name back. These qualities of a good teammate translate into real life skills, ones the visiting guest speakers have noted as the girls maintain eye contact and confidently voice their questions.
When asked what makes an awesome athlete, 9-year-old Anna N. said, “Practicing and being nice to our teammates. Trying your best and including everyone. Passing and not hogging the ball. And you definitely want to know your teammates’ names.”
Learn more about how Boys & Girls Clubs empower girls to build life skills and reach their full potential.