A new University of Minnesota Tucker Center Research Report on physical activity among U.S. girls points out that physical activity is essential for a healthy lifestyle, but data shows that girls’ physical activity levels once they reach teenagers “decline sharply.” This “wrong direction” is even worse among underserved girls than among boys, the report summarized.
Many adult women are staying physically active by playing hoops every Wednesday night at the Minneapolis Sports Center adjacent to the Lake Street YWCA. Names such as Pink Panthers, Sexy Foxes, Big Baller Babes, Oldies But Goodies, Rusty Pipes and Flaming Marshmallows are among the teams in the YWCA Women’s Basketball League.
League Director Tanysha Scott told the MSR last week that two divisions exist: 10-15 teams in the “Silver Fox” division (age 40 and over), and the “A” division, which is for former high school, college and pro players age 18-35. “I think overall it’s really important for women” to stay active as well as satisfy their competitive juices, she stressed.
A former high school and college player herself, Minneapolis De La Salle Girls’ Basketball Coach Scott explained, “When once we play in high school and college, and once we are done with that, sometimes we have to get real jobs. We have families, have kids and stuff we have to take care of. I think this is their opportunity to stay in shape, stay competitive and play. This league is about 25 years [old].”
Danielle Jones, a longtime veteran league player on two teams, Sexy Foxes and Super Hoopers, said, “We have been in this league for 10-15 years, first at the Uptown Y then the Midtown Y. We just try to keep it going. It’s been fun for us for a lot of years.”
“I just had a baby, so I’m trying to come back and play,” Tisa Mitchell reflected. The 2000 Minneapolis North grad had played college ball at Southwest Missouri State. Now she’s a Sexy Foxes team member who has played in the Y league since 2006.
“I have played in other leagues around the city,” Mitchell, a first-year Cretin-Derham Hall ninth-grade girls’ basketball coach, noted. “But there’s very few leagues that are just for women, and this popular.”
When asked what they would do to stay in shape if the Y league weren’t around, Mitchell said she perhaps would get a fitness gym membership. Jones responded, “I’d probably try to walk more. That’s a good question.”
The Tucker Center report also points out that girls “are shaped by their multiple and intersecting identities — such as race, ethnicity, sexual identity, religion, social class — and the social, environmental and socio-cultural factors around them” when it comes to physical activity. Also, the report noted that few sports programs are gender sensitive or take into account how systemic sexism, poverty, racism, homonegativism and abuse shape girls’ lives.
Black girls show the largest increases in U.S. obesity rates, starting in childhood and adolescence, which the Tucker Center report calls to address excessive weight in Black females.
“Basketball is conditioning and running,” Scott continued. “We make [the league] a friendly family atmosphere where they can bring their kids. We have some grandmas that are playing, so they bring their grandkids.”
“I can bring my baby and he will be fine,” Mitchell said. “Whoever’s on the bench, if my husband or my mom can’t be here, will watch the baby.”
The YWCA Women’s Basketball League plays eight games every Wednesday, starting at 6 pm. “I think it is important that women have their space, be women and just play,” Mitchell said.
Charles Hallman is a contributing reporter and award-winning sports columnist at the Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder.