National Team Connects With Teen Girls
Aswad Billups, a representative from Nike's Grassroots Brand Marketing department explains, "This is a campaign surrounded around letting everyone know that females have a voice in athletics."
The women of USA Basketball teamed up with Nike on Sunday, inviting young girls to watch the Women's National Pool practice at John Jay University in New York City.
"I think it's important (to interact with young women) simply because we were once there," says Washington Mystics guard Alana Beard. "We were once these girls sitting in the stands and having the bright star in our eyes because we were seeing famous basketball players who have made it to the top."
Players got personal, opening up about the struggles and adversity they faced in their own basketball careers.
"I only got to play eight games my freshman year before I tore my ACL," said All-Star Storm guard Sue Bird. "A friend of mind was in a car accident and he was paralyzed from the chest down. He said, 'Tough times don't last, tough people do.' "
Many college players discussed how they balance school and basketball, while the veterans spoke about being a pro while planning for a future after their playing days are done. And the teenage girls heard them loud and clear.
Sixteen-year-old Nabila Madubuko said, "They make time to get their school work done… So for me to keep playing, I have to keep my grades up too and continue to work hard on the basketball court. "
While there are many successful male athletes who could tell these girls about their experiences and provide similar advice, 14 year-old Taylor Savillo said she believes it is more powerful to hear it from the perspective of a fellow female athlete.
"If you only had male role models you wouldn't feel that you could accomplish what males can. You just need someone to relate to."
Professional female athletics was once a foreign concept, but now with leagues like the WNBA it is a reality. Interaction with successful female athletes dares young girls to dream and challenges them to reach for what they once thought was not possible.
"It is motivation to stay focused, learn from them, to teach kids that might be going off on the wrong path that if you stick to your guns and stick to a good path in life, then you can play basketball for a living," said Chloe Cardin, a junior at Clark University.
The lessons that young women learn from participation in sports reach beyond the athletic arena. The attitude, the experience and the confidence gained from athletics transfers into all avenues of a young woman's life. For Monarchs guard Kara Lawson, competition does not exist solely in basketball, but throughout life.
"I remember when I was a kid in school. I used competition with a subject. My goal was to get an 'A' and if I didn't get an 'A,' math won or English won or science won. And that is the way I approach everything. So you are always striving to win and you are always striving to improve."
While all the players have their own stories and all are affected differently by their involvement in sports, they share a common work ethic. They are dedicated athletes and aim to communicate the importance of hard work to those who have similar aspirations.
"Whatever you do you have to work hard for positive results to happen," said No. 2 draft pick and Liberty center Jessica Davenport.
The message got across to the young athletes.
"They eat, sleep and live basketball, and if you want to be successful that is what you have to do," said Savillo.
In one afternoon, Nike let the women of USA Basketball challenge young females to work hard, to dream the impossible and to fight for their passion. Nike's campaign makes female athletes heard, and on Sunday afternoon a New York City gymnasium echoed words of inspiration from some of the greatest in the world.