Girls Inc. of Huntsville teaches teamwork, healthy habits with basketball clinic
HUNTSVILLE — Those who watched the Super Bowl Feb. 3 might have noticed one particular commercial involving the New York Giants going head-to-head with a pint-sized team of girls called the Macaroons.
Using their teamwork, athleticism and a little spunk, the Macaroons score a touchdown against the Giants. Their victory aims to communicate an important message to other young girls: that “they can succeed at the highest levels, especially when they work together.”
“Too often, girls are told they can’t,” said Judy Vredenburgh, president and CEO of Girls Inc., in a news release. “We all have a role to play in challenging stereotypes and limiting messages.”
Furthering that message on a more localized scale, Girls Inc. of Huntsville decided to partner with Lee High School to hold a basketball clinic for their girls Feb. 6 to coincide with National Girls and Women in Sports Day.
Coach Je’taime Silas brought in members of the Lee High School varsity girls basketball team to lead the different age groups in the basics of basketball. Some of the stations included lessons on dribbling, shooting, passing and guarding.
“Many of our girls—they do not have an opportunity to participate in team sports, so one of the benefits of them coming to Girls Inc. is that we actually participate in a soccer league, a basketball league and a softball league with the City of Huntsville, and it’s their first opportunity to participate in team sports,” said Stephanie Malone, executive director of Girls Inc. of Huntsville.
Jaila Walker, who participates in Girls Inc.’s after-school program, said she has enjoyed playing different sports with Girls Inc., as well as participating in STEM activities and social studies lessons through their programs. She has previously participated in basketball with the organization and is now playing softball. “I look forward to everybody having fun with the sport of basketball and learn it, and just having a new opportunity in life,” she said at the basketball clinic.
With the clinic, Malone said she hoped the girls would not only take part in a fun, new opportunity, but that it would help them to develop teamwork skills and learn the basics of a sport that may be new to them.
“More importantly than that, it’s just the aspect of doing something physical for their health in the future, and so that’s the biggest benefit for our girls is that participating in activities like this, and then also those sporting activities gets them to do their physical fitness activities because they don’t always do that at school,” Malone added.
Charles Hyder, board member for Girls Inc. of Huntsville, said he was excited to see the girls enjoy the clinic and learn new skills. “Some of these young girls are being introduced to basketball and to sports,” he said. “I’ve got two daughters myself, and I did the same thing—introduced them to sports. I think sports is very good for young ladies because it teaches them about competition, about winning and losing, about teamwork, about strategy, so I’m excited about this opportunity for them to have fun but to learn a different activity.”
Nutrition is also an important aspect of Girls Inc. Malone said that in addition to teaching girls to be “strong, smart and bold,” they believe that if they can “fuel her fire, she can change the world.” With this in mind, Girls Inc. not only provides physical activities like the basketball clinic, but they also teach girls healthy eating habits. “We’re trying to teach them how to fuel their body with the important nutrients and the important fruits and vegetables, portion sizes and things like that,” Malone explained.
In addition to the team sports that Girls Inc. participates in, girls in the program also have opportunities like aerobics and Zumba classes to stay in shape.
Jaila was not the only one excited for the basketball clinic. Peyton Rice, a second-grader in the program, said she has been playing basketball since she was 3 years old. “I can dribble up and down the court,” she said. “I have been trying my best to make shots, and we work hard, and we practice a lot, and we show support to our people who come to watch us.”
Silas said one thing he noticed from all the girls was how “full of energy” they were. “I love it,” he said. When Girls Inc. of Huntsville reached out to him about the possibility of conducting a basketball clinic for the girls, Silas didn’t have to think twice.
“It meant a lot to me to have two daughters that was a part of this program and to see how confident they are and how well-mannered they are and how they do well in school and well in a lot of other things because Girls Inc. introduced them to stuff,” he explained. “Just coming here and talking to the girls, I feel like I’m talking to one of mine.”
Both before and after the clinic, Silas shared a few words of wisdom with the young girls. He advised them to figure out what they love and develop a plan for the future. Whether they end up going all the way with that plan or developing a new one down the road, he said going through the process will help them in their future endeavors.
He also stressed learning to communicate effectively, which can open new doors and lead to gaining more knowledge—something he has seen in his own life.
Above all else, though, Silas told the girls to stay positive, keep going and surround themselves with others who uplift them. He said this is how Lee High’s girls basketball team has become successful at what they do.
“We all can point out the negative things that we can’t do, but there’s so many things that you can do and that you have the gift that the world deserves to see that, and we just want you to show it,” Silas told the young girls. “… So many people has prospered, and they’ve done great things coming out of Girls Inc. If you look at a lot of the great leaders, you all are the future. … Together, if you use teamwork (and) stay positive, we’re going to be in a better place.”
Malone said there are about 65 girls in Huntsville’s Girls Inc. after-school program. They serve about 200 girls annually through the after-school and summer camp programs, but they serve about 600 girls each year through their center base and outreach program.
As part of the National Girls and Women in Sports Day initiative, Malone said they also have a GoFundMe campaign that will support their sports program. The money would help Girls Inc. to buy equipment, uniforms and more for the girls in the program. Hyder noted that is through community support that they are able to make sure “all young ladies get an opportunity.” The fundraiser can be found at www.gofundme.com/team-sports-for-girls-inc-huntsville.
In addition, Malone said they are always looking for more volunteer coaches to come and work with the girls, whether it’s for a one-time activity like the basketball clinic or something more regular. With more volunteers, Girls Inc. of Huntsville will also be able to offer even more sports, which will further their mission of helping girls to live healthy and successful lives.
Peyton is just one testament to the impact Girls Inc. is already making on young girls in the community, and she was happy to share all the different ways the organization has helped her.
“They support us, they make us a better person, and they feed us, and … they do fun arts and crafts with us, and then on top of that, they make us grow better from top to bottom, and they make us think that we can grow up and be whoever, what we want to be,” she said with a smile.
To learn more about Girls Inc. of Huntsville and the services they offer, visit girlsinc-huntsville.com.