Story URL: http://news.medill.northwestern.edu/chicago/news.aspx?id=119299
Story Retrieval Date: 5/25/2013 3:57:56 PM CST
In a matter of months, a group of young participants at Girls in the Game transformed themselves from burgeoning athletes into aspiring film documentarians.
After seeing a Dove Campaign for Real Beauty commercial, members of the youth athletics program decided they wanted to do their own documentary. Only this time, their film would promote the lessons and skills they had learned at Girls in the Game, located in Chicago’s Near West Side.
“The most important thing about the documentary is that they came up with it themselves,” said Katie Darr, who coordinates the Girls’ Advisory Board program at Girls in the Game.
The board, made up of Girls in the Game participants, oversaw the entire making of the documentary, from writing the screenplay to filming the interviews. The girls also applied for a Young Teen Philanthropists grant to fund the project, drawing up a budget for the film, according to Amy Skeen, executive director of Girls in the Game.
“It was neat to see them have an idea, and actually see it through,” said Skeen, a social worker who initially saw the organization as an opportunity to support young women as they navigate through everyday challenges. “They amaze, inspire, excite me every day.”
Once they received the grant, the young filmmakers learned how to become hard-hitting documentarians, with the help of NBC-5 sports anchor Peggy Kusinski and videographer Coquie Hughes. The documentary brought together young women ages 8 to 18, who showed off their athletic skills and answered questions about self-esteem.
Girls in the Game prides itself on introducing its participants to new sports and fitness opportunities.
“We really want to introduce them to sports they’ve never played before,” Darr said. “We have a safe place to try a sport and not be afraid of anyone mocking them.”
The girls often collaborate with local college teams, including the women’s rugby and lacrosse teams at DePaul and Northwestern Universities, respectively. However, it’s the members’ evolution into confident young women that is the true focus of the organization, Skeen said.
“You see these girls walk through the door, shy, with their heads down, saying, ‘I can’t, I can’t,’” said Skeen. “Now many of them are the ones holding their heads up, saying, ‘I can, I can.’ They’re becoming role models for the new girls, sort of as a pay it forward opportunity. And what could be better than that?”
Girls in the Game’s teaches participants how to pay attention to nutrition. At the documentary premiere, the concession stand featured bowls of orange and apple slices instead of cotton candy and doughnuts.
Researchers from Loyola University Chicago found in 2006 that the health of girls participating in the program improved significantly throughout the school year. The evaluation showed that the girls began eating more fruits and vegetables, demonstrated increased knowledge about healthy eating and exhibited a healthy decrease in their body mass index compared to young women not involved with the program.
Melissa Page, whose daughter, Ashley, has been involved with Girls in the Game for more than a year, saw tangible benefits. Page, who lives in Hyde Park, found that her daughter has abandoned any couch potato tendencies, now choosing soccer over Sesame Street.
“[Ashley] earned leadership skills—it doesn’t just help her here but in everyday life,” Page said. “She just started middle school, so even just picking and choosing who her friends are, she’s been very careful with that. She’s learned to be a leader and not a follower.”
Girls in the Game also stands out as one of the only programs of its kind in Chicago. Skeen lamented the lack of sports and fitness opportunities for young women outside of the suburbs.
“Most of [the girls] don’t have recess or P.E. in their schools, and definitely not girls health and leadership,” she said. “Most of them, when they come to Girls in the Game, that’s the first time they’ve been introduced to that all-girl energy.”