GEPOn Saturday, May 13th, Philadelphia Youth Basketball, in partnership with Philly Triple Threat and with the help of 20 volunteers, hosted its inaugural Girls Empowerment Program. Approximately 60 middle and high school aged girls participated in the event, which included basketball skill development, competitive gameplay, and personal-development activities centered around the question of what it means to be a female student athlete.

While PYB is committed to serving all young people in Philadelphia, we believe that providing gender-specific programming to the young girls of in the Philadelphia region is critically important to our mission and will enable to grow a strong network of women who are eager to mentor and impact the lives of young girls. Starting in the fall of 2016 we set out on a mission to establish a framework for our Girls Empowerment Program and began to develop a committee of women responsible for planning and executing the Program. The committee met four times prior to the event to plan a comprehensive program that would give female student athletes the opportunity to grow as strong, confident and independent young women.

Mason jarsFor the first ever Girls Empowerment Program, PYB and PTT decided on the theme, “Basketball and Beyond: Exploring the identity and challenges of female student-athletes.” The main focus of the event was the off-court facilitated discussion, which focused on clips from the CSN Documentary TOMBOY that highlights topics specifically related to the challenges and triumphs of female student and professional athletes. A highlight of the event was at the end of the off-court session when the girls wrote inspirational messages for each other that they placed in mason jars to open for words of positive affirmation when they are having a tough day. Also, Holistic
Health Practitioner, Certified Health Coach, and the Founder of Good Health Matters, LLC, Saleema Curtis, led a mindfulness session where the girls learned techniques to deal with and mitigate the stress of young womanhood and balancing family, school, sports and social activities.

In addition to the off court components of the program, both middle school and high school girls participating in two hours of on court skill development drills and competitive game play. Six on-court coaches, all of whom played at the college level and three who played in WNBA and overseas (Linda Hester, Brooke Queenan, and Brianna Butler) ran stations, coached teams, and offered mentorship to the female student athletes throughout the day.

Linda shootingHilary Beard, a Girls Empowerment Program volunteer and award-winning writer and editor, commented on her experience facilitating discussion among the young women stating, “These young women were thoughtful, caring and intelligent as they engaged in discussion about the identity of female athletes; wrote inspirational messages for each other that they placed in Mason jars each can open when the going gets tough; as well as competed and built friendships and skill sets that (little do they know) will endure for their entire lives. It was an honor it was to spend the day with these future leaders being developed by these great organizations.”

PYB would like to thank the Baldwin School for hosting the event, and all of the female volunteers who who helped make this event possible, especially; Brooke Queenan, Andrea Campbell,  Robin Hart, Amy Cohen, Ariel Johnson-Peredo, Lynn Williams, Brianna Butler, Abby Crowley, Daniela Voith, Hilary Beard, Jayla Greene, Kailey Beard, Mandisa John, Saleema Curtis, Linda Hester, Tahira Williams, MaryKate O’Brien, and Diana Venezia.

By MaryKate O’Brien, Community Mobilization Coordinator

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