I read these words in an email late last week, “Basketball practice is starting. There is no available space.” The timing couldn’t have been worse; we were on the last session of floor hockey. Those two sentences left me deflated. Even though we tried to secure another space, there was nothing that could be done for the upcoming Tuesday. So we were forced to hold Girls in the Game in a classroom for the whole two hour period. I believe it affected one girl in particular, Chloe.
Chloe is a 7th grader that has been in the program since we started in September. I’ve noticed that each session she seems to act out negatively more and more. She wants to be seen as the tough girl, someone that is too cool for Girls in the Game- yet she has only missed one day in 9 weeks. Every interaction I’ve had with Chloe has been a challenge and often ends with “mann this/you is booty” and her walking away from me. I try to find things she likes to do. One of the many times she refused to participate in an activity, she said that instead she wanted to keep score. That was fine with me. Anything to keep her from laying down on the floor, messing with other participants, running out of the program space, or trying to sneak a text on her phone. This Tuesday, however, she was participating.
Because of our limited options for floor hockey in the classroom, we played a target shot game with the hockey sticks and the tennis balls. There were 3 targets that varied in size and the amount of points they were worth. The most points you could earn was 20 for hitting a tennis ball can from about 15 feet away. At first we were having the girls go one at a time, but realized it more sense to have more than one girl go at a time, alternating between shots. It just so happened that when we made this change Chloe was up. She did not respond well to having to share her turn with another participant. She got angry and quit. She didn’t want to play anymore. Then she picked up a tennis ball and threw it at the target. I immediately pulled her aside to talk about it.
She expressed her anger at me for taking away her turn. I tried to explain to her that she would get the same amount of shots; she would just be sharing the shooting area with another participant. No explanation I could give was good enough. She was mad and she was mad at me. At the time, there was nothing I could do to make it better. Only while writing this did I realize something; we had unintentionally taken away Chloe’s space. Her turn to shoot by herself was the space she needed to be the center of attention, to feel important and to have all eyes on her. The deflation I had felt earlier in the week when the space we needed to run a successful program had been taken away from us, Chlooe was feeling when we did not allow her the space to be in the spotlight. I think I am starting to understand the space that Chloe needs to be successful. Maybe Chloe acts out negatively to get the attention of the other girls and maybe Chloe likes keeping score because it sets her apart. It lets her be different and important. This is something I am going to be attentive to for the last two sessions of the season. Will we be able to find a safe, playable space for girls for those last two sessions? It is still uncertain.
Now that’s booty.