Finally, an urban girls’ summer league…
By Charles Hallman
The basketballs are bouncing inside the Farview Park gym, which in itself isn’t surprising at the always-in-use city park on Minneapolis’ North Side. What is surprising is that it’s a Sunday afternoon, and the players doing the bouncing, shooting, and other basketball-related activities are female.
“This is a very important step in advancing Minnesota basketball, especially for the city girls,” notes Jamiela Taylor, one of several locals who volunteer their time on Sundays in the first-year Chance Equal Opportunity (CEO) Run & Shoot Girls’ Basketball League. Taylor, the De La Salle girls’ freshman coach, told the MSR before one of her team’s games that she likes placing the girls in a draft, as well as naming each team after a Historically Black College or University — she proudly points out that her club is named for Spelman College.
“That’s what drew me to be involved. You put girls together from different schools, different community teams, and they find themselves on the same team,” says Taylor. The draft “was a whole new concept for a lot of the girls. The response to that alone was awesome.”
Otherwise, the CEO girls’ league rules are no different than its male counterpart that has existed for several years, including mandatory attendance for scheduled classes and community service projects, explains its director, Jamil Jackson. “We do the pledge before the game. We use the basketball as a tool to get them in the building to expose them to college, career and culture.”
“It’s about exposure,” continues Jackson on both genders getting the same attention in their respective CEO programs. “We have to give to our girls like we’re giving to our
Not talked about is the long-existing void for an urban girls’ summer league that Jackson finally filled this summer. “It’s about time,” says De La Salle Girls’ Coach Faith Johnson Patterson.
“It’s about our inner-city girls helping to build the [CEO] brand, [because] our girls are competitive,” adds Jackson.
Asked if playing games on Sundays posed a problem, Taylor admits that for some females “is a struggle…but a lot of the girls are making the sacrifice.
“This is an awesome opportunity for Minneapolis Public (Schools) and surrounding areas to get these girls involved and play some good basketball,” she points out. “To bring girls together of different skill sets [and] different schools helps bridge a lot of gaps involving [possible negative] attitudes toward each other.
“I enjoy seeing girls getting into shape,” continues Taylor, “trying to figure out how to make adjustments on the court and be better basketball players, improve their basketball IQ, keep them off the streets and working on something positive.” If she had one wish, “I would like to see more of the boys come watch the girls play,” says the coach. “It’s been great for the inaugural year.”
Jackson, however, stresses that the two CEO programs are more than just hoops. “We cannot expect the school system to be the only teacher in our community. It’s our job and our responsibility.” This is why he constantly offers an open invitation to other community folk to join him in his selfless efforts.
“Everybody out here working with kids needs to be bringing their resources to these youth,” concludes Jackson. “They need to be coming in here helping these kids become better young men and women for our community.”
Charles Hallman welcomes reader responses to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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