Learning to Be Vital by Luzy Mucino

“Why do you think some of the girls were distracted today? What can we do to engage them? How can we get all the girls actively participating?” These are the questions my co-coaches and I ask each other. We ask them to make sure all of the girls are having fun, and we ask them to make sure we meet each individual girl’s needs.

Over the course of my time as a coach, I have learned to adjust programming to meet each girl’s individual needs. At Girls in the Game we encourage our coaches to modify the curriculum to better support our girls. As a coach I have learned that our girls are unique and come from diverse backgrounds; so I need to be able to respond to each of the girls differently and provide a safe, enjoyable and individualized environment.

Students playing a basketball game at a recent Game Day.

I plan to carry these ideas with me when I graduate and become a physical educator. At Girls in the Game it is not about just getting through the curriculum, but about how the curriculum impacts the girls. As coaches we need to have an understanding of the girls’ individual needs so they all are able to succeed and learn. My teaching philosophy has definitely grown and developed during my time as a coach. In my future profession I will meet many different children, and because of that I need to be able to embrace their differences and be creative with my coaching.

In our programs we focus on the “whole girl.” This means that each girl has their own story to tell, and it is my goal to help them embrace their uniqueness, find their self-identity and be not only leaders, but gamechangers. I strive to be vital in the way I coach, because when I was a girl in the game, that is what my coaches did for me. My Girls in the Game coaches showed me how to embrace my background and my differences and turn that into the person I am today. And when I learned to embrace my own differences, I learned how to embrace the differences of those around me as well.

As coaches we have to remember how children learn. If a girl can’t learn the way we teach or coach, then we should adjust our style. Students learn through emotions, movement and activities. Students should learn without realizing they are even learning, and learning should be enjoyable. The secret to coaching and educating is to have respect for the girls and who they are as individuals.

At Girls in the Game coaches are vital. I am proud to say that we boldly embrace change, respond to the needs of girls and are passionately driven towards excellence in everything we do.  



Training Teens to Become Leaders by Tori Kause

Leaders are people who motivate and inspire others to do the right thing. Leaders become role models, who are a vital part of every young girl’s success. In our Teen Squad program, we work to ensure that our teens develop the skills essential to be leaders in their communities and beyond.

We have a diverse group of girls in Teen Squad. Some girls are shy, and some are more outspoken. We train these girls how to step up if they are shy, and how to let others have a chance if they are very outspoken. After completing training, the teens take on the role of a leader as they facilitate workshops for younger girls in Girls in the Game almost completely on their own. It is inspiring to watch the teens learn from each workshop and respond to some challenging situations with the young girls without even asking for my help.

Recently at a workshop, our teens were faced with an elementary school group who has a history of behavioral challenges. Once we realized how gaining the girls’ attention would be a difficult task, I was going to suggest to alter a game to sitting and clapping instead of standing and jumping, but the teens beat me to the punch and implemented this change on their own. As their co-coaches, we are always there if the teens need help, but we work hard to ensure that they can handle most situations independently.

Watching the teens grow throughout the year has been a privilege. They have worked as a team, developed co-coaching skills, and became true leaders to the younger girls. When we step into an After School site, the girls come running up to the teens because they are so excited that they are going to be coaching.

Girls in the Game's 2017 Field of Dreams. Photo: Tipping Point P
Tori with members of the Teen Squad at the Field of Dreams gala

Another moment when I saw the teens take on leadership roles was when the seniors spoke at our Field of Dreams gala. Each teen showed bravery, strength and confidence as she stood at the podium describing what the heart of a champion was, how they have grown through Girls in the Game, and what their future endeavors will be after graduation. This required an amount of bravery that I am sure I did not have as a senior in high school. Girls in the Game assists in the development of strong teen leaders who will continue to lead and inspire those who look up to them as they progress through life.

Celebrating Women’s History Month: The Evolution of Women’s Sports by JD Miller

As we celebrate Women’s History Month, we look to the evolution of women in sports as a reminder of how far we’ve come, and the landmarks we have to celebrate. While we applaud the 3.26 million girls who play on high school sports teams each year, we recognize there are still barriers to overcome in media coverage of women’s sports and opportunities to work as a professional in the field.

Thank you to our friends at Ohio University for sharing this infographic and reminding us of the amazing progress girls and women have made, and the next obstacles we aim to tackle!

The Evolution of Womens Sports-Design 2

The role of women in sports has changed dramatically since the days when young girls in high school could participate only in sports such as swimming, synchronized swimming, or the drill team.  While these are all rigorous sports, the fact that at one time they were the only ones available to girls speaks volumes when compared to women and their relationships to sports today.

The evolution of women’s sports has meant more opportunities for women and girls to participate in all levels of athletics.  Many are now professional athletes, like the World Cup winning women’s soccer team.  Others are breaking barriers in male-dominated sports such as the National Football League, working as officials and in front offices.  The Seattle Seahawks’ Chief Financial Officer is Karen Spencer, and their management staff includes two other women in a staff of just 16.  While this percentage seems low, it’s the tip of the iceberg for women’s involvement in the NFL. In 2015, they made up 45 percent of the total viewership of NFL games.

They also make up a high percentage of media personnel for various networks.  One of the most well-known is Erin Andrews, who has been a sports reporter for major networks for more than a decade.  For any girl who wishes to take a cub reporting job to the big leagues, Andrews and Pam Oliver are just two of many role models to which they can look.

For decades, college and professional sports media were the domain of men.  Today, more and more women are breaking into sports media.  More women, too, are consuming sports media, beyond just the NFL. TV ratings for sports events are now being influenced by female viewers aged 18 to 49.

In 2015, the success of the United States women’s national soccer team (USWNST) in the Fédération Internationale de Football Association’s (FIFA) Women’s World Cup led to a rise in the popularity of both the sport itself and the women playing it. Nike released women’s team jerseys in men’s sizes, and EA Sports included women’s teams in its FIFA 16 video game release.  The third World Cup victory for the USWNST also shed a spotlight on the fact that women’s sports still has some evolving to do. The disparity between salaries for the men’s teams and the women’s team became a hot topic in the months following the 2015 Women’s World Cup.

Yet this kind of inequality hasn’t stopped girls and women for participating in all aspects of sports.  The greater the numbers of women in sports, the more positive changes will occur as the evolution continues, opening-up yet more opportunities for the girls now playing ball with the boys.

Becoming an Inspiration by Colette Payne

Last month, I had the chance of a lifetime. I was invited to return to a place where I had spent five months of my life when I was a teenager; I was asked to speak at the Cook County Juvenile Temporary Detention Center (JTDC). I responded to the invitation as quickly as I possibly could. I didn’t want to miss an opportunity to be an inspiration to a girl who sits in a place where I once sat. It was forty-six years ago that I sat in JTDC, at the age of fourteen.

My stay there was unintended. I dreamed of being a dancer, finishing school, and I told myself I would never go to jail. However, I had no control over the zip code in which I lived. Growing up in the Ida B. Wells housing complex was tough, and each time I came home from jail or prison I had to go back to a community plagued by drugs, gangs and violence. I served my first prison sentence in Warrenville Correctional and continued to go in and out of jail and prison, recently coming home for the last time in 2012.

As we walked down the halls of the JTDC to get to our destination, I looked at the beautiful mosaic art and wondered if they were made by girls who were detained. There were a great deal of positive messages all around, and I couldn’t help but think to myself, what if every community promoted this type of inspiration?  Our communities need resources, and a child should not have to go to jail or prison to get the help that he or she needs.

Colette and her colleague Maria at JTDC, ready to work with our Girls in the Game members.

As we played games and interacted with the ladies it gave me a since of who they are.  They are kids that have been separated from their sisters, brothers, mothers and hidden from the outside world. These are not bad girls. I enjoyed every minute of the games, especially the animal game. It is a memory game, and you have to make animal gestures or sounds, remembering the animals before you and the sounds that were made.  It gave me some time to get out of my head and be a kid again.

We discussed attitude, and how our attitudes are an important part of our everyday lives.  We talked about acceptance, change and courage. These are three principles that I have learned to live by. Accepting the things you cannot change, changing the things you can and having the wisdom to know the difference.

You can’t change people, but you can change you!  The ladies shared, cried and talked about continuing their education. I let them know that being in JTDC does not mean it’s the end of the world, but you shouldn’t wait until you are my age to turn your life around.

Colette Payne is a community organizer at Cabrini Green Legal Aid, and a South Shore resident. She is a leader, student, mother and grandmother. Her passion is to educate families to build healthier communities.