Playworks Southern California has just completed our first league for the 2018–2019 school year, and it included more than 350 girls from inner-city schools across LA County and Orange County who were learning to play basketball. Playworks coaches recruited girls who had very limited exposure to the sport and would shy away from playing basketball at recess time.
But during the six-week basketball league, our girls developed the fundamental skills of the game, including dribbling, passing, defensive positioning, shooting, and pivoting. When it was time to come together and play with other Playworks’ basketball teams, the girls showcased what they had been practicing with their coaches in a safe and healthy environment that encouraged teamwork, positive reinforcement (“good job, nice try”), and lots of high fives. Each week, their coaches saw the girls not only improve their athletic ability, but they also became more confident at school and in interactions with basketball players from other Playworks partner schools.
“Many of the girls at our schools don’t believe they can be athletes because ‘sports are for boys,’ ” says Christina Van Eck, Playworks AmeriCorps Coach. “Our leagues were all about teaching the girls they can play sports, too! I think that’s one of the biggest benefits of Playworks’ leagues: breaking gender barriers across the playground with games like basketball.”
The teamwork skills the girls learn are also invaluable. Because Playworks’ leagues are developmental, they don’t keep score, so players don’t need to worry about winning.
“Each time my girls stepped on the court for a basketball game, I encouraged them to utilize their teammates rather than trying to do everything on their own,” says Coach Christina. “Sometimes, we even tried to pass the ball to each player on the court before we took a shot. I know that because of their participation in Playworks’ basketball league, my players have a better understanding of what it means to be a member of a team.”
Since the league has ended, the basketball courts at our schools are now filled during recess time with girls who once had no knowledge of the game. Because of this league, our girls now know how to play basketball with confidence, and they look forward to recess time where they can join their friends on the court.
Here are some great photos from the after-school Los Angeles Girls Basketball League:
“Good job, nice try” high-five line to end a good game.