4 Things We Want For (Teen) Girls

Each year, we train a new cohort of teen leaders. At this training, we do everything from team building activities to role-play leading curriculum for younger girls to try out Girls in the Game’s coaching best practices.

One of my favorite activities at this training is called: “What We Want For Girls.” We split up into small groups and decorate a poster with all of the things we want the younger girls we are coaching to get out of Girls in the Game. Some groups draw pictures of girls looking happy and healthy and being active while other groups write words and phrases such as “confidence,” “lift each other up,” “find her voice,” “empowered” and “know she is strong.”

This year at Girls in the Game, we are growing and strengthening our teen programs to reach more girls and make a deeper impact. We have several new and exciting elements to our teen programs, including Senior Coaching, Squad Sisters, Teen Club expansion and Teen Saturday Series, which are helping us reach our goals regarding what we want for girls.

Senior Coaching

What We Want For Girls: Meaningful leadership roles

Teen Squad, our city-wide program, started in 2007. Teen Squad is comprised of high school girls from across Chicago who receive training from Girls in the Game on how to lead healthy-lifestyle workshops for younger girls and educate adult women on the needs of girls through Leader-to-Leader Interviews.

Teen Squad Members earn scholarship money for each workshop at which they coach. This year for the first time, Girls in the Game is offering the role of “Senior Coach” to seniors who have grown up in our program and have several years of coaching under their belts. Senior Coaches sign up to coach weekly for a 10-week season at one of Girls in the Game’s elementary After School sites alongside Girls in the Game adult coaches, earning a larger scholarship amount and putting their coaching skills to the test!

Senior Coach Amira ready for her first day coaching at Pershing Elementary

Not only does this provide the opportunity for teens to develop further as coaches and leaders, but it also allows our teens to give back to their communities and neighborhoods as role models for younger girls.

We are also engaging all of our Teen Squad returning members as leaders this year to help plan and run our trainings, so that new members can learn from the true experts of our programs — the girls who have gone through them!

Squad Sisters

What We Want For Girls: Lifting each other up

This year, new and returning Teen Squad Members are matched as “Squad Sisters” to provide support, encouragement and advice to each other as we grow our cohort. We are also engaging Girls in the Game alumnae as virtual pen pals for all current Teen Squad Members. Our aim is to strengthen the connections between the Girls in the Game family!

Teen Club Expansion

What We Want For Girls: Equitable opportunity for all girls regardless of circumstance

Over the past few years, Girls in the Game has administered a site-based teen program called “Teen Club” at several high schools during lunch period to reach girls who are not served by our traditional citywide model where transportation and after school schedules may be a barrier to involvement.

This year, we have taken our lessons learned from the past few years and solidified our program structure to use the proven successful parts of Teen Squad as the building blocks for Teen Club:

· Leadership through coaching others at workshops

· Career exploration with Leader to Leader interviews

· Professional development around health and leadership topics, and as many girl-driven elements as possible.

We have also implemented this structure at our Juvenile Justice Program at the Cook County Juvenile Temporary Detention Center and girls there have their very first coaching opportunity lined up next month!

Teen Squad members at a Leader to Leader Interview

In addition to putting more structure around our Teen Club program and offering more meaningful roles for girls in these programs, we have expanded our reach by offering Teen Club in three high schools per season this year.

We believe that all girls, regardless of circumstance or environment, deserve opportunities to develop the skills and confidence they need to make smarter decisions and serve as leaders for others, and we are so excited to serve more and more girls through Teen Club!

Saturday Series

What We Want For Girls: Diversity and Connection

Girls in the Game’s Teen Saturday Series is a new drop-in program that brings together girls from all over Chicago to play sports and increase skills and knowledge in health and leadership topics. This series aims to give girls from diverse backgrounds and experiences the opportunity to expand their horizons by working as teammates, appreciating their similarities and differences and participating in professional development together. We aim to bring together girls from all of Girls in the Game’s existing teen programs as well as new participants!

Taking place on the first Saturday of each month, each session will be comprised of a sports lesson and game, activity-based learning about a health or leadership topic and hearing from a guest coach who is an expert in either the sport or the given topic. Girls can drop in for one or all sessions, and at the end of the series they will receive a certificate of completion showcasing their achievements in the programs.

At Girls in the Game, we aim for girls to find and use their voices. We have listened to our teens about what they want as leaders, and we are so excited to offer more opportunities this year for our girls to use their strengths and develop as gamechangers!

Coach Elizabeth with members of Teen Squad

Elizabeth White is the Teen Programs Manager at Girls in the Game.