Women’s Sports Foundation: Organization Spotlight

My childhood wasn’t really active. Sure I had a bike, a scooter, and my mom signed me up for some soccer camps, but I was never encouraged to engage in sports. My elementary school didn’t have recess, gym class, or even after-school sports clubs, so by the time I got to middle and high school I lacked the desire to participate. It wasn’t until I started skating when I actually felt like being active was a choice I could make, albeit in a female-dominant sport.

Women’s Sports Foundation is a crucial organization to the sports landscape in the country as it aims to bring self-identified women to the field–literally and figuratively. Folks at this organization have identified a lack of female representation both as athletes and as leaders in sports: positions like coaches, directors, even commentators. As far as aspirations go, WSF has high but entirely achievable goals that can greatly change the landscape of leadership. At the end of the day, society needs more female leaders, and what better way to promote leadership than participation in sports.

Mission: We are dedicated to creating leaders by ensuring girls access to sports.

Women’s Sports Foundation website

Population: Girls and women of all ages and ethnicities

Women assigned at birth make up over half of the world, yet participate and hold sports positions at lower rates than cisgender men. While female-dominated sports like artistic gymnastics and figure skating give these women a platform to athleticism, the mainstream sports covered by media lack adequate female representation. The misconception that women should be less active than men has been pervasive for centuries. Because of this, cisgender girls are less likely to be active in childhood, which turns into a less active adulthood and promotes preventable health conditions. While it may look more inclusive today than 50 years ago, we still have a long way to go.

The Program

Women’s Sports Foundation does so much that it’s hard to succinctly list out without taking up the whole post! As a foundation, WSF awards grants and scholarships for a variety of roles and accomplishments. The Linda Riddle/SGMA Endowed Scholarshipย is for graduating high school seniors with limited financial means to continue their sports career in college. Sports 4 Life Funding is meant to fund programs that support sports programs for 11-18 year old black and Latinx girls. The WSF Tara VanDerveer Fund for the Advancement of Women in Coaching encourages the development of female coaches through fellowship. Just these alone speak to the Foundation’s dedication to its mission.

Then there’s programs like GoGirlGo!. As a curriculum to keep elementary, middle, and high school girls involved in physical activity, the program acts as a supportive structure for existing programs in direct contact with the girls. It teaches everything from nutrition and body image to confidence and leadership. Many programs that mean well lack the infrastructure necessary to adequately provide for their communities, but this program helps fulfill that need. Overall, the foundation is dedicated to increase sports participation at all levels of athleticism and behind the scenes on the executive level, which would ultimately empower more women to be present in historically male-dominant spaces.

Ways you can help

Buy this limited edition headband from KT Tape

I have 2 because why not! It’s for a great cause AND they’re pretty. Oh and I guess they’re multi-functional, but I just sweat in them.

Donate directly to WSF

Money solves many problems. Do it for the girls! Your contribution no matter how small is valuable.

Do any or all of the actions on this one pager

Are you a woman with any mild interest in being a coach? Maybe political advocacy is more your style? Savvy in social media campaigns? WSF offers so many ways to help their mission without spending a dime!

Question of the Day!

Are the women in your life as active as the men? How about those that identify outside of the binary?

Figure Skating in Harlem: Organization Spotlight

If there’s one thing that I would do to make my mark on the sport, it would be to start a Figure Skating in Harlem chapter in Philadelphia. Providing mentorship and an avenue of self-expression and self-esteem is crucial to youth, and the ones who need it the most due to their exposure to Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) are the ones who have the least access to it. The gravity of the work done by this organization is great, and I don’t think simply words are enough to speak to what impact it has on kids in Harlem (and Detroit!) so before we get started, let’s dive into this TED talk by founder Sharon Cohen.

Mission: Figure Skating in Harlem helps girls transform their lives and grow in confidence, leadership and academic achievement.ย 

Figure Skating in Harlem’s website

Population: Girls 6-18 residing in Harlem, upper Manhattan, the lower Bronx, or Detroit

Let’s talk about the elephant in the room: Harlem is not your typical neighborhood to find a bunch of figure skaters. Figure skating is not a sport you find many people of color in, and if you’ve ever paid for a month of private lessons and a pair of competitive skates you know why: it’s expensive. These neighborhoods are lower income, predominantly African-American, and have a long history of ACEs that have high correlations of lower achieved levels of education, involvement with crime, and health conditions. By giving these neighborhoods the opportunity to help prepare young girls for adulthood, Figure Skating in Harlem promotes equity for black girls in New York City and Detroit to succeed as well as their non-black cohort.

Figure skating in Harlem logo

The Program

The objectives for students in the Figure Skating in Harlem model are to develop skills and education, possess confidence, and be able to make healthy choices among a slew of other great skills young girls need. The students get placed into Learn To Skate levels based on age and level where they learn skating skills, and they also participate in off-ice activities once a week. FSH isn’t just a physical fitness program, as students also sit for educational activities ranging from college prep to study skills. As if that wasn’t enough, the students also get a chance to learn leadership skills and experience cultural trips. I could go on and on about this program, but in a nutshell, it’s the best after-school (and summer!) program on the block.

I’m not the only fan of FSH; the program has been championed by Meryl Davis, half of the notable Olympic ice dance team who took the gold in Sochi in 2014. Davis has attended the annual gala for over a decade and now co-chairs the Detroit chapter. Other notable Olympians who’ve attended this gala include Maia and Alex Shibutani, Michelle Kwan, Karen Chen, Nathan Chen, and Paul Wylie. Have I mentioned this organization is the only one with a program like this AND do it extremely well?

I can’t say it enough how much I’m glad this exists. That girls of color from low-income communities can get the opportunity to participate in such an expensive but transformative sport, perform in front of engaged audiences, and receive support to build a strong foundation that will set them up for the rest of their life. If there was any organization I’d quit my job today for, it would be to work with the amazing team that has forged this process along for all these years.

Ways you can help

Donate

As with any organization, a little goes a long way, and there are so many more kids who could use this amazing program!

Amazon Smile

Turn your midnight shopping adventures into a donation without having to do anything or spend extra money but register this organization in Amazon Smile!

Volunteer

As a coach or tutor, or if you have expertise in careers, financial literacy, fitness & nutrition, study skills and more, you can also host a workshop!

Question of the Day!

What’s a hobby you wish you could have done when you were a kid? Other than figure skating, I really wished I could have done gymnastics!