At Girls in the Game we often get asked if we can accommodate male volunteers. Our answer, always, is “Of course. Girls need to see positive male role models. It’s important.” And it is important. Despite creating a safe, girl-only, welcoming environment for our girls, the worlds they inhabit include boys and men and they need to learn how they should be treated and respected. I love that we create an environment to support those lessons. One of my favorite memories at Girls in the Game is overhearing Coach Karl, a former AmeriCorps staff member, talk about how he demonstrated sportswomanship at camp that day.
I think I love that story so much because I’m aware of how rare it is and that it demonstrates what is unique about Girls in the Game.
Before I started working at Girls in the Game, I worked for a generous, charitable organization, the Elks National Foundation (www.elks.org/enf), which is the benevolent arm of the Elks. Many people think of the Elks Club as the place where their Grandfather used to hang out but it is so much more than that. The Elks give back to their communities in so many different ways and the Elks National Foundation makes that possible.
One of their youth programs is the Elks Hoop Shoot. When I worked there, the Hoop Shoot was my favorite of all the Elks programs. I love basketball and seeing the intensity, commitment and passion of the young athletes always inspired me. The Hoop Shoot was mostly volunteer-run and the volunteers’ commitment to the kids and the program was clear. But it was also very male.
One of the great things about the Hoop Shoot is that the girls and boys competed at an equal level. The girls’ contests were as exciting and talked about as the boys. But when you looked at the people running the program 11 years ago, there was a noticeable lack of females. I worried about what kind of message that sent to the girl contestants. What does that tell them about their future in the world of sports when they only saw male officials, volunteers and coaches?
The next year, I broke the gender barrier at the Hoop Shoot National Finals by serving as one of the rebounders. Hear more about my experience and the program’s ongoing efforts to include females as volunteers, in the video below.