How many girls who’ve never played a sport are going to try out for their high school team?
Last week, CPS announced that they are increasing the number of high school girls’ sports teams. At the same time, sports programs at the elementary level are being eliminated. At Girls in the Game, we know that girls can’t wait until high school to get in the game. For many girls, it’s too late.
In 2010 the National Women’s Law Center filed a complaint against a number of school districts for Title IX violations. Chicago was the worst of the offenders, with the largest percentage gap between female students and female athletes.
Last week, CPS announced that it will expand the number of athletic opportunities for high school females as part of a larger settlement with federal investigators. In addition to expanding opportunities for female athletes, by 2018 schools must survey students on their interest in athletic participation to gauge the need for more athletic opportunities. But it’s not that simple.
My almost 3-year-old goes to soccer every Saturday. It involves activities like stomping on bubbles and building towers with cones; you know, those important drills to gear toddlers up for some hard-core soccer. More importantly, it gives him a chance to run around with other kids and he likes it. But it’s not cheap and for many families, it wouldn’t be an option.
Therein lies the dilemma for many kids and families in Chicago. Before the high school level, there are few low-cost or no-cost opportunities for kids to participate in sports. There are even fewer girl-only opportunities for young girls and we know how important it is for girls to have that safe, all-girl space.
At Girls in the Game, we aim to level the playing field so that all girls have the opportunity to try sports when they are young, not just the girls whose families can afford to pay. Our programs teach girls sports they’ve probably played before, like soccer, and sports that are probably new to them, like tennis or flag football.
Last year Loyola University found that the percentage of girls enrolled in our after school programs that were overweight or obese was actually higher than the overall population of CPS. That means that Girls in the Game reaches those girls that are hard to reach and likely wouldn’t participate in a co-ed or highly competitive sports program. Our program offers them a safe space to be active and try new sports, so that they’ll realize the value of physical activity and continue on that healthy path.