In a time when mental health issues are plaguing teen girls, Girls in the Game has never been needed more. Girls in the Game works with girls from elementary school through high school to teach them about the importance of staying physically and mentally healthy. Their programs are a combination of sports and wellness that empower girls from underserved communities to become strong leaders. From fun games, to health education, to leadership development, Girls in the Game does it all. Learn more here!
What is the inspiration behind Girls in the Game?
We were founded 27 years ago by a group of women who attributed their success in life to having access to sports as girls. After starting the program, it became clear that girls need more than sports. They need health education, leadership development, and skills to deal with emotional struggles. We’re very intentional about including those topics in our programs, none of them are only sports-focused. We serve girls year-round and try to keep them involved for as many years as possible. All girls deserve opportunities to play sports, but we focus on girls who don’t have access to other opportunities— girls from communities that have been historically disenfranchised. We work with 3,000-3,5000 girls per year in Chicago, Bloomington, Illinois, and Baltimore.
Can you tell me about how your programs promote both physical and mental health?
For us, health goes beyond nutrition and is about using sports as a way for girls to learn about how to keep their bodies and minds healthy. Our programs are different depending on the age. With younger kids, we do fun activities like a food relay race, and other games that teach kids what they should be eating while keeping them active. Kids aren’t grocery shopping, but they can still learn about healthy options. For middle and high school students, we focus on emotional health, since that age group is when girls drop out of sports at alarming rates. High school students also learn about career paths in things like IT, architecture, and other jobs that they aren’t otherwise exposed to. We talk about topics like leadership, personal safety, making smart choices, relationships, mindfulness, and mental health.
How do sports affect confidence in girls?
A lot of girls we serve find a sport that they love over the course of their time in our programs, but the goal is not to keep girls in competitive sports. We use sports to give girls opportunities to grow as leaders, learn resilience, and build confidence. Our girls are successful in all areas of life and know that they have the capacity to create change. Many girls who leave our programs for college say that they were so shy when they first started, but now have a strong voice and advocate for themselves. We provide a safe environment for girls where they learn that it’s okay to fail, and it’s okay to get up and try again.
Do you have plans to expand your reach?
Though we know that girls everywhere could benefit from our programs, our focus is on reaching as many girls as possible in the cities where we have existing programs. We work with Loyola University to evaluate the effectiveness of our programs, and they’ve found that not only are our girls active and have knowledge about health, but they have a high level of grit and don’t give up when things get hard. Those results can have a huge impact in a girls’ life, and there is still so much need in these cities that we haven’t met yet. We work with Chicago Public Schools, park districts, residential facilities, and juvenile centers to reach as many girls as possible, and we hope to reach new populations in these cities over time.