Seeing the Whole Girl by SommerAnn McCullough

I’ll be the first to admit that I am not an athlete. I haven’t been in an organized sport for over 10 years and am more likely to lean towards solo runs and yoga classes than a league experience. So it might be a surprise that I was so excited to join Girls in the Game as the new Marketing & Communications Coordinator.

But as I explained to our CEO Michelle last week, it wasn’t the “game” part of our title that attracted me but the “girl” in front of it. To me sports are a gateway to get girls to open up about issues of confidence, self-worth and empowerment. The teamwork that results from playing sports turns into strong friendships, and coaches become lifelong mentors.

We Nurture the Whole Girl

I see this resonate in one of our core values: “We nurture the whole girl. Our programs encourage physical and emotional health and promote active minds, bodies and hearts.” We are explicit in our mission of serving girls both on and off the field, and I saw this manifest in our Teen Squad interviews last week.

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Girls playing ice breakers during the Teen Squad interviews.

The Teen Squad is comprised of 40 high school girls from across the Chicagoland area. These teens represent diverse communities and experiences, but they join together for a year-long curriculum of learning how to be coaches, mentoring younger girls, attending Leader to Leader interviews to explore career paths and building emotional intelligence.

As I interviewed two prospective candidates, their thought-provoking responses touched on the value of our “whole girl” experience. When they shared about their passion for playing a new sport, they spoke not only of the physical gymnasium in which they played, but a safe space to be with friends. And when they talked about their responsibilities as teen leaders, they didn’t train only to be coaches, but to be role models for younger girls. Our teens know that the Girls in the Game program is about so much more than sports; they see the benefits that it provides to the whole girl, the whole teen.

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COO Meghan Morgan receiving the Chicago Neighborhood Award for Girls in the Game.
Being an Innovator

To me, receiving a Neighborhood Award from the Chicago Innovation Awards on Wednesday night, aligned perfectly with what I’d been seeing in our programs and in the Teen Squad interviews. We are being innovative every day when we design programming for young girls in Chicago. We look at games and activities with new perspectives to develop skills ranging from conflict resolution to college readiness.

Nurturing the whole girl means you must be innovative in how you teach girls 7-18 to value themselves, their role in the community and the goals they set for their futures. I am excited to see these new Teen Squad members complete their seven-month journey, to develop into stronger leaders, and to bring their own innovation to the field.

If you believe in our innovative work at Girls in the Game, and want to see us empower more girls, please vote daily for us to win $50,000 from Gatorade. Share with your friends & family who care about developing leaders for the future!

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