BOROUGHWIDE — The Brooklyn Nets have partnered with Nike for Game Growers, a new program that invites girls across the country to create the inclusive, meaningful experiences in sport that they deserve and to inspire more girls to play and love sports.
In Brooklyn, the Game Growers program will have eighth grade girls working in pairs to develop ideas on how to get other young girls into basketball. The program is taking place in collaboration with other participating NBA and WNBA teams.
Senior Director of Community Relations for the Brooklyn Nets Heather Hall told this paper what it means to help bring sports back into the lives of girls in the community as they get older.
“Nike developed this new program to involve as many NBA and WNBA teams as possible to expand their grassroots program to involve eighth grade girls that can serve as a team’s ambassadors,” she said. “Here, they will develop ideas in collaboration with Nike and the Nets on how we can inspire more girls in the community to continue to play and love sports as they get older. We were very excited to hear about this program because we actually have been doing things on our part to keep girls involved.”
Eventually, the team will narrow it down to two girls who will be ambassadors for the program for the Nets.
“We are going to work with Nike to identify a need in the Brooklyn community that the girls can help focus on,” Hall explained. “They’re going to be identifying what that is and then they’ll try to solve that as well or present some solutions for it. We are going to work together over the course of a number of months and then we are going to formulize something that is very specific to the borough that will make sense.”
According to Hall, by age 14, girls are dropping out of sports at twice the rate of boys. According to a 2018 study from the Women’s Sports Foundation, nearly 40 percent of girls don’t participate in sports, versus 25 percent of boys.
“I think girls stop playing sports as they hit their teenage years is because they become involved in other things,” Hall explained. “You’re growing up, you’re changing and you look at things in a different light. Maybe you think it’s just not for you or you’re not good and that’s just not the case. I think what really carries us through our youth, teenage years and adulthood is being uplifted by a team, being a teammate to someone and learning leadership skills.”
On the Game Growers website, young girls in a promo video discussed the issue and the goal of the program.
“Girls can move. Move the world. But there’s a problem. More and more girls are dropping out of sport or choosing not to play at all. And this needs to change,” explained the girls in the video. “Nik, the NBA and WNBA have a mission to get girls playing more but they need ideas so they’re reaching out to the people best suited to tell them what to do. Us. Game Growers is our chance to change the game and to grow sport among girls. You have ideas and the world needs them. Because sport can help girls lead and girls can help lead sport.”
Even prior to the program’s inception, the Nets organization has been making strides bringing basketball back into the lives of girls in Brooklyn.
“When we first talked to Nike about coming on board with this, we had a couple of groups we do work with in this age range,” Hall said. “They were very excited to hear about [a program] giving girls an opportunity to have a platform, be an ambassador in their community and be a leader encouraging other girls to play sports. They were thrilled with that.”
Hall added that in early fall, the first-ever all-girls youth clinic was hosted at Barclays Center. In addition, last spring, during the team’s Women’s Empowerment Night, 50 girls from the Women’s Sports Foundation participated and were given an educational behind-the-scenes tour.
The goal is to “change the game,” said General Manager of Nike Social & Community Impact Caitlin Morris in a statement. “We know that kids who play do better in every way — physically, emotionally and academically — yet this generation, and girls in particular, are the least active in history. We want girls today to be game changers and problem solvers, and Game Growers helps amplify their voices, lifts up their ideas and equips them to succeed – on the court and in life.”
So far, the reception has been positive.
“Some girls are already filling out the application and they’re just ready to hear what is next,” Hall said.
To Hall, the program means a lot.
“It’s what I love to do and it’s a passion to be able to provide access to people who may not have the opportunity,” she said. “We really do care about the community and we want people to know that.”
Pairs of eighth-grade girls can apply to be considered for the program through Nov. 15, 11:59 p.m. PST, at www.gamegrowers.com.