From the Netherlands to the United States, sports unite people

Written by Grace Alger, Girls in the Game After School Coordinator

How Sports Have Impacted My Life
I’ve been involved with sports in some capacity or another through much of my life. They were a good way to stay active and have fun, but I think the most important impact my involvement had on me was providing opportunities to make friends and build a community around the sport.

I played T-ball on a team called the Cardinals in my hometown in kindergarten and first grade. The team was mostly made up of neighborhood girls and was coached by a few of our dads, including mine. I wasn’t particularly good at T-ball, but I suppose my skill level fit the team. The Cardinals never won a game in the years I was on the team. We were so bad, I remember vigorously celebrating a tie.

Despite our record, playing T-ball helped create strong friendships among the girls and parents involved. When I run into some of my old teammates, we still joke and reminisce about the team.

However, my time with the Cardinals was cut short when my family moved out of the country to the Netherlands when I was in second grade. In my new town, I joined a softball team called the Hilversum Hurricanes. Once again, sports worked its friendship-making magic. Being on the Hurricanes really helped me make friends in this foreign place. Being on the team was especially nice because it gave me an opportunity to meet Dutch kids that I didn’t really have at my ex-pat-kid-filled international school. The Hurricanes also gave me my first ever win! My dad called friends from home the next day, only to find out the Cardinals had finally won on the same day! Due to the time difference, I get to claim that I won before they did.

As an adult, my involvement with sports and community has mainly been as a fan. I was in marching band in high school. While it was a good and fun way to stay active and new meet people, it wasn’t until I joined the Northwestern University Marching Band that I really got into the sports side of being in the band. I got really into football, and then later basketball when I joined the pep band. Part of what I really enjoyed with college sports was the community; the people around me in band were really invested in our teams. I also was able to form this interesting connection with other students, alums and community members who were also involved.

The strength of this community really hit me after our football team defeated Notre Dame in South Bend during my first-year band away trip; seeing everyone’s excitement was a really memorable thing. Another important event was when I went to Salt Lake City for our men’s team’s first-ever trip to the NCAA tournament. It was really cool to see SLC awash in our team color, purple, to feel like we were at a home game despite being halfway across the country, and to play at pep rallies filled with fans from all different backgrounds.

Pep band also helped me get more into women’s sports, especially basketball. My first year, our men’s team wasn’t great, but our women’s team ended the year ranked and with a spot in the NCAA tournament. I was lucky to be able to travel to Waco, TX, and I had such a great time at the tournament and continued to follow the women’s team in the years going forward. That support of Women’s college basketball flowed into the WNBA after a Northwestern player was drafted into the league. Meeting other fans of the women’s leagues have exposed me yet again to fun, sports-centered communities.

The main impact sports had on my life has been giving me opportunities to be a part of an enjoyable and strong community. I found teammates and friends from across the world through my involvement in sports over the years.

I’m excited to begin programming at Girls in the Game because I want to help the girls I coach to find some level of this community through the games and sports we play. Our Days of Play and Summer Camp programming help expose participants to girls all over the city from diverse backgrounds. The friends the girls make through Girls in the Game may very well find important roles in their lives and stay in them for a lifetime!

Grace Alger is an After School Coordinator with Girls in the Game. She majored in Cognitive Science at Northwestern University. Grace is doing her Year of Service at Girls in the Game through Notre Dame Mission Volunteers AmeriCorps. In her free time, Grace takes improv classes.