5 Types Of Spaces We Need To Create For Girls

With the start of each new year, it is easy to get caught up with establishing unrealistic resolutions that are quickly broken at the start of February. However, setting goals should not be inherently daunting, nor should we be deterred from continually setting goals and evaluating why we have those aspirations.

As Season 2 commences, I am reflecting on the goals and hopes I have for the girls I interact with each day. I want Girls in the Game be a space for…

1. Learning about one another.

Part of what I love about Girls in the Game is the opportunity to build strong relationships with the girls. At the middle school sites where I coach, we participate in an activity called Girl Talk every week. Girl Talk is a primarily discussion-based activity where the girls reflect and share their thoughts on a variety of topics, including peer pressure, conflict management and values & identity. These discussion topics allow for the girls to also develop their leadership skills.

At one of my middle school sites, they sincerely enjoy this activity. I think if they had the choice, they would solely partake in Girl Talk discussions. The group of 21 girls eagerly raises their hands to contribute their thoughts on the topic, while also acknowledging each other’s perspectives. They share personal stories and experiences to serve as examples. The girls are open, expressive and vulnerable, but they are also comfortable expressing those experiences in that shared, safe space. For the next two seasons, I hope the girls continue to bring that openness and curiosity to engage in dialogue about important topics while also building strong relationships with one another.

2. Creative expression

One of my middle school sites LOVES activities that involve acting. We’ll normally break them up into small groups and distribute a topic that their groups perform in a skit. For example, the girls performed skits on unhealthy habits with drugs and alcohol, unstable home situations and detrimental relationships with friends at school.

However, instead of focusing on the negative cause to each of these topics, the girls diligently brainstormed solutions or alternative coping mechanisms to combat those issues. Their performances were thought-provoking and poignant. They demonstrated a maturity when tackling those issues. I hope to find more outlets, whether through acting or other stylistic activities, that can have the girls reflect about critical issues.

3. Confidence

During one of our programming sessions, my co-coach and I decided to incorporate a “runway” where the girls could strut down the aisle with their teammates cheering for them. At the end of the runway, we would lower the volume of the music, and the girls had to say one positive thing about themselves. We included that last element since our health topic for that week was about healthy body image. It was a fun way to tie the lessons from that week into this activity. With music blasting and girls dancing, they were ecstatic! I hope to foster an environment where the girls can confidently express themselves.

4. Challenging ourselves

For many of our girls, the sports they try during our after-school program is the first time they attempt to play them. We cover sports such as softball, lacrosse, dance and golf. For example, when we introduced softball to my elementary school girls, the girls only knew it was similar to baseball.

Some of the girls were frustrated because they couldn’t properly toss or hit the softball. However, by the next week as the girls bustled into the gym with their giggles echoing off the walls, they had a different mindset. The girls were eager to sharpen their softball skills from last week. Therefore, I hope the girls encounter these challenges with the sports as an opportunity for growth and renewed commitment to stay motivated when confronted with challenges.

5. FUN!

As one of our agreements in our five-finger contract, I want to ensure that the girls are having fun! Impromptu dance sessions, double dutch competitions, endless games of tag and Little Sally Walker, these always bring the girls joy as is evidenced by their large smiles. Throughout the next two seasons as a coach, I hope to see the girls have fun during the after-school program, all while playing sports, becoming leaders and learning about health topics.

Maria Barba is an After School Coordinator at Girls in the Game.

Next Step

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