By Coach Samantha, MSW student at the University of Illinois Jane Addams College of Social Work and Coach in the After School Middle School Program
I had my very first Power Play experience with Girls in the Game on Saturday, November 14th, with some of the After School Middle School program participants and my fellow coaches. Power Plays are field trips for program participants that demonstrate commitment to Girls in the Game by attending nearly every program session (girls can miss one session) leading up to the Power Play. Attending the University of Illinois-Chicago Flames women’s basketball game was an incredible experience for the girls, and an inspiring experience for me. I saw firsthand the impact that Girls in the Game is having on the participants. The middle school participants all learned about basketball this fall, as well as leadership, sportswomanship, and commitment. While on the bus, the girls enlightened all of the coaches by reviewing the information we discussed on women’s basketball. Once inside the pavilion and in our seats, the Athletic Director at UIC told the girls that if they cheered really loud then we could sit in the floor seats. The girls cheered their hearts out, as did the coaches, landing us all in the floor seating area.
Throughout the game, I was so inspired by the girls’ amazing sportswomanship-cheering loudly for the Flames, organizing “the wave” for all of us during timeouts, and also creating a Girls in the Game cheer that included UIC: “Girls in the Game loves UIC!” Moreover, the girls did not “boo” the other team once, even when the UIC band and their musical director were booing. These lovely young ladies in our program illustrated incredible leadership skills as the true role models they are. As a glowing highlight, the participants were able to meet and shake hands with members of the team after the game. Seeing the reactions of the girls was priceless. They met these local celebrities who showcased the meaning of teamwork, leadership, and sportswomanship, as our girls did throughout the trip and continue to do in their programs.
I have seen powerful changes in our participants over the past few weeks, including growth and maturity, and their commitment to living by our Five-Finger Contract.” In a mere 10 weeks, I have been so inspired by these incredible young women, and seeing our program’s impact in action at the Power Play was just the cherry on top of the yogurt parfait (to put it in terms of the Girls in the Game philosophy). I cannot wait to see how the participants inspire others, as they have definitely inspired me.