Girls from Chicago are different. I know a few. I call them my friends. They are tough, resilient, loyal, unapologetic, bold, and strong. They are the definition of Grit, Merriam-Webster defines it as “firmness of mind or spirit: unyielding courage in the face of hardship or danger.” And when it comes to a tough city like Chicago, these girls not only have the grit to survive but to succeed. These are the same girls who have made up over 40,000 young girls who have participated in Girls in the Game.
Girls in the Game is a non-profit organization that teaches young women between the ages of 12-18 health and leadership skills through after-school and summer sports programs. The program focuses on the whole girl and strives to empower her throughout the most important developmental stages of her life.”We teach girls that they are leaders. That they are strong and confident and can change the world.” Stated Meghan Morgan, Executive Director of Girls in the Game.
Throughout the year over 3,8000 girls are able to participate in three different traditional and non-traditional sports as well as focus on health and leadership initiatives; the perfect growth trifecta. These programs predominantly take place after school through programs like the Teen Squad high school program, as well as extended into the summer through programs like the Girls in the Game Sports and Leadership Summer Camp. Because the program is so life changing, alumni like Alecia Ivery, the Assistant Program manager and one of my guests for the interview, has been able to come back and influence the lives of other girls. Ivery’s twelve-year summer journey with Girls in The Game has allowed her to use her passion to change lives. “I’ve introduced new found loves that I have,” stated Ivery. And made her passion for sports-based youth development her career.
Ivery is just one example of a girl who has exemplified true grit from the program. As Morgan, shared with me, these girls leave the program better equipped with skills that will aid in guiding their relationships with others professionally and personally. According to a 2015-2016 study by Loyola University Chicago, 86% of Teen Squad participants have experienced some form of violence in their personal lives. This is why the program openly takes on the issue of violence in Chicago and provides girls with game-changing solutions so they are more inept to handle conflict. According to the same study, after one season( about three months) of programming, girls who participated “showed improvements in supporting non-violent conflict resolution for three years in a row.” That is incredible!
Girls in Game lays out the basic foundation for girls who enter their program while giving them every opportunity to grow in a safe environment. They do not turn any girl away. As an organization started by women, nurtured by women and harvested by young girls, the organization prides itself in helping the whole girl become the best version of herself. As Morgan shared with me, “we need to teach girls to be brave and that it is okay to fail.”
Moments of failure are inevitable, it’s how the situation is handled that makes all the difference. Girls in the Game is equipping these young women with skills that can only be gained through sports. As a former student-athlete, I have personally learned the art of time management, teamwork, humility, and most importantly leadership. These characteristics are ones that are the building blocks of these girls who exemplify extraordinary true grit. Characteristics that will help them successfully play, as a tough competitor, in this game called life.
Girls in the Game offers an array of volunteer opportunities. If you would like to volunteer or know a young girl who could benefit from their program, please visit their website here.
Be sure to check out the complete interview with Alessia and Meghan below and by following the Good Seeker podcast, available on iTunes.