By Lena Folke
Held at Evanston Township High School, Girls Play Sports is a nonprofit organization designed to encourage young girls to participate in and enjoy sports. Recognized for its impact during Women’s History Month, Girls Play Sports was selected as a winner for M&M’s Flip the Status Quo contest, awarding them $10,000. Girls Play Sports co-founder Liz Maday and Evanston high school basketball coach Brittanny Johnson emphasized how the Evanston community works to empower these young women.
BRITTANNY JOHNSON, EVANSTON HIGH SCHOOL BASKETBALL COACH: I think what’s so great about Black History Month and then Women’s History Month is you get a chance to reflect on trailblazers who like, set a standard for pushing things forward and without taking the time to really reflect on that during this month. These stories could be lost
GRAPHIC: 40% OF TEEN GIRLS ARE ACTIVELY NOT PARTICIPATING IN SPORTS 1.13 MILLION MORE OPPORTUNITIES ARE PROVIDED FOR BOYS THAN GIRLS YEARLY
THE EVANSTON COMMUNITY INTENDS TO BREAK THIS DISCREPANCY
LIZ MADAY, CO-FOUNDER OF GIRLS PLAY SPORTS IN EVANSTON: Girls Play Sports is a program for young girls in grades third through eighth grade. We teach 16 plus different sports per year trying to expose girls to different opportunities, different sports to see what their interests are
GRAPHIC: LIZ MADAY, CO-FOUNDER OF GIRLS PLAY SPORTS
MADAY: In 2010, I think, the athletic director at ETHS asked me if I wanted to help create a program that would help the girls participate more in sports at the high school because there was a real disconnect in see between how many girls and how many boys were playing sports at that time, and the boys just dominated
JOHNSON: I just think it’s important that from a young age, girls are able to not only have really good coaching, but really good experiences with sports so that they stay with it
GRAPHIC: BRITTANNY JOHNSON EVANSTON WEB COACH
JOHNSON: The more likely that that they start with a good experience, the more likely they’ll stick with it
GRAPHIC: EVERY SUNDAY FROM 4-6PM THE GIRLS LEARN THE BASICS OF EACH SPORT TAUGHT BY EVANSTON HIGH SCHOOL AND COLLEGE ATHLETES. THEY MEET AT EVANSTON TOWNSHIP HIGH SCHOOL.
MADAY: I always felt like, at least in my family, like my parents were always encouraging us to play sports. And at that time, of course, a long time ago there wasn’t the the pull to play one sport and to play club sports is really part of our mission is to have kids play multiple sports
JOHNSON: On the women’s side of athletics, there are so few opportunities, especially for women of color. In Illinois high school basketball, there may be less than ten female black coaches. And I think, you know, I coach a team that’s pretty diverse. But for our black athletes, I think it’s amazing that they’re able to be coached by somebody that looks like them, who has similar experiences
GRAPHIC: FOR WOMEN’S HISTORY MONTH, M&MS CANDY COMPANY IS GIVING $10,000 TO WOMEN-RUN ORGANIZATIONS ACROSS THE COUNTRY THAT “FLIP” THE STATUS QUO.
AFTER BEING NOMINATED BY A CLOSE FRIEND, LIZ WAS SELECTED AS A WINNER FOR HER WORK WITH GIRLS PLAY SPORTS
GRAPHIC: “FLIP” THE STATUS QUO WINNERS
MADAY: There are many people who, even in our community, in the Evanston community, there are many people who do not have opportunities. Our goal is to make sure that we every program we have scholarships available. We want to make sure that anybody everybody can be in the gym as well
GRAPHIC: TIMES SQUARE, NEW YORK
MADAY: One thing that has been really gratifying to me is to see the young kids come through the program and then they want to be a part of the program when they’re in high school. So they become the mentors and they give back
JOHNSON: You should be able to play for people who not only have played the sport, but know how to teach the fundamentals of the sport and can help you fall in love with the sport. So I think what girls play sports does is amazing
MADAY: [We’re] just trying to weave in all of the levels of of strong women who are leading
JOHNSON: I feel grateful to be at a place like Evanston where I get to meet incredible young women, their families, and just people in the community and, you know, have transformed just as not only as a coach but as a person because I’ve been here
Lena Folke is a video broadcast graduate student at Medill. You can follow her on Instagram at @lena.folke or on Twitter at @LenaFolke.