Creating the Next Generation of Teen Leaders in Texas

Walking into Denton High School, I saw a handful of girls scattered along the hallway. They were all different ages, different body types and not many of them were talking. Curious eyes darted around to the other expectant faces and then back to the ground.

We announced that all the girls here for Girls in the Game could follow us upstairs.

“You’re here for Girls in the Game?” I head one girl ask excitedly behind me. Followed by an even more excited, “Me too!”

I smiled.

Teen Squad leaders at Denton High School, 2016–2017 school year

Going into our third year of teen programming in Denton, Texas, I wasn’t sure what to expect. This program is still so new. In Chicago, we pride ourselves on growing up with our girls and meeting them at every stage of their development. Often, they become involved with Teen Squad after participating in our After School programming in elementary or middle school, or after working with Summer Squad during Summer Camp. However, our Teen Squad program in Denton is only two years old; outside of one-time workshops, we don’t have consistent programs with younger girls to help with Teen Squad recruiting. So walking in that first day I thought it would look pretty different.

I was wrong.

“I participated in a Girls in the Game workshop two years ago, and now I’m a freshman. I can’t wait to be the one leading the workshops.”

“My sister was involved last year, and she loved it. Now I’m excited because I’m old enough to be in it.”

“I’ve been on Teen Squad basically all of high school. Since Girls in the Game came to Denton High.”

Teen Squad members attend a Leader to Leader interview at Fossil HQ in Texas.

So many of the girls had a story about how they were introduced to Girls in the Game. And even though they were all different ages, grades, played different sports and had different backgrounds, during our training they came together as one team. The girls spoke about their role models, what they thought a leader should look like and their personal goals for the season.

They were supportive, building each other up and giving encouraging, thoughtful responses.

When the time came to practice leading curriculum, the girls participated enthusiastically. After each module, all the girls provided feedback. Overwhelmingly, the feedback was positive, and suggestions for improvement were given earnestly and respectfully. Even though this program is new, it’s still Girls in the Game Teen Squad through and through.

Teen Squad members coach younger girls at a recent workshop.

This year in Denton, we have 17 girls signed up as Teen Squad Leaders, which is more than double last year’s squad. With four workshops, one community service event and one Leader to Leader event already lined up, these girls are going to have more opportunities to get involved with Girls in the Game in Texas than ever before. The opportunity to reach more girls with workshops in Denton is exciting because we can see that they remember us. When they get to high school, they’re looking for us. And we’re going to be ready.

So here’s to our 2017-2018 Denton High School Teen Squad! We couldn’t ask for a kinder, more motivated group of girls to be our Denton ambassadors, introducing future Teen Squad members to our programs and helping us serve the whole girl, long-term, all across the country.

Katie Cummings is the Manager of Expansion Markets at Girls in the Game