In its most basic form, Girls in the Game is a fitness club. It is a community of people that promotes healthy living and provides the resources and personal support for girls to be engaged in positive physical activity. At Game Days and Summer Camp, Coach Jessica stands in front of a crowd and projects, “Good morning, how are we doing today?” She is missing only the microphone headset and tower stereo set that blasts EDM remixes. However, at Girls in the Game, top 40 music has been replaced by a series of ever-changing group hand games, and despite the surrounding city traffic and sounds of other nearby camps, there is no need for a microphone. In my week of volunteering at the Girls in the Game Sports and Leadership Summer Camp, I have found that 120 of Chicago’s young ladies can shout loud and make it clear what makes Girls in the Game special, healthy, and a perfect fit for girls everywhere.
During “field trip week”, I had the opportunity to explore Chicago with summer camp’s Team Two, sometimes self-named Blueberry Zebras or Awesome Sting Rays. This team of 9 year-olds is close to the youngest at camp; however, I have been struck by the complexity of their ideas and stories. Riding a camp bus to the Shedd Aquarium, one of my teammates shared with me her family’s plans to move to Minnesota due to the fact that “so many people are shot up around here.” She seemed a bit disappointed about leaving Chicago, so I suggested she return one summer and visit Girls in the Game’s camp again. “Yeah, I’m going to come back and be a coach one day!” she exclaimed, her voice indicating that I, of course, should have already known her future plans. It was my first bus ride on my first day of volunteering, but this young lady’s tone was appropriate; as gyms around Chicago offer countless discounts and deals, I should have known that Girls in the Game would have a different level of loyalty. This is where “girls run the world” right?
After my first day of camp, I passed another new fitness club in the West Loop, this one with a sign that read, “Judgment-free zone. All fitness levels welcome.” Choosing to volunteer at Girls in the Game after coaching a gymnastics camp where children are very cognizant of their assigned level, I was curious to see how Team Two judged and reacted to each other’s varying talents. In most situations, I found one reaction: support. Even I, a temporary counselor, felt welcomed by both the campers and staff. On Tuesday morning, there were slight debates over seating on the camp bus, but during Tuesday afternoon, a coach’s silent glance prompted a camper to suggest, “It doesn’t matter who we sit with. Let’s do this.” Team Two’s bus realization exemplified the small acts of leadership and problem solving Girls in the Game encourages. In only a week, the small acts added up; each 9 year-old I met is a true individual and leader.
As “field trip week” came to a close, Girls in the Game did experience some issues with bullying. Upon being notified of various small incidents, Coach Jessica made it clear to other coaches that such behavior, however natural and expected it seemed, was to stop. Another Team Two counselor, a college-bound girl who has been in the game for years, explained to me her plan to address 9 year-old bullying; she aimed to tackle the issue in its entirety by exploring the causes, effects, and possible responses to bullying as a complete, unified Team Two. I was impressed by the maturity level she demanded from 9 year-old girls as well as by her own commitment to the camp. This co-counselor demonstrated the awareness, confidence, and dedication Girls in the Game builds in young ladies. I am proud to have been a part of their impact and am excited to contribute to the organization’s growth.
My few moments of involvement with Girls in the Game – at a Game Day, Field of Dreams, and now a week of Summer Camp- have motivated me to be a more impactful leader in my own communities. Now entering my senior year of at Whitney M. Young Magnet High School, I have created a Junior Board to fundraise for and increase awareness of Girls in the Game. Resurrection High School was successful in this endeavor during the 2014-2015 school year and I look forward to building on their accomplishments as well as helping to establish similar junior boards at Northside College Prep, Walter Payton College Prep, and Loyola Academy. Please support any social media, activities, or events associated with Girls in the Game Junior Boards! The Whitney Young Junior Board aims to partner with restaurants, businesses, and even fitness clubs in an effort to expand the number of loyal athletes, thinkers, and leaders who are lucky enough to experience and grow with Girls in the Game.
Check out Girls in the Game on Facebook; https://www.facebook.com/getgirlsinthegame