News Blog Spirit of Women: Inspiring girls through the power of basketball 1 AUGUST 2017BY MICHELLE MOORE, Basketball Inspiration Programme Founder and Director The Runnymede Trust Basketball Inspiration Programme is a funded project from The Spirit of Women Changemakers Grants Programme, which was set up by The Fawcett Society and Spirit of 2012. Working in partnership with the London Thunder women’s basketball team, Runnymede is challenging objectification through sport, introducing disabled and non-disabled sportswomen role models into schools, and uses basketball as a hook to bring girls into a series of personal development workshops on objectification and body confidence. Here, Basketball Inspiration Founder and Director Michelle Moore recounts one of the programme’s first assemblies in South London. Video produced by filmmaker and photographer Dez Mighty (voluntary capacity). ‘Thank you so much for making me believe in myself’ - Stacey These were the powerful words spoken by a 14 year old South London young woman who, along with 350 participants, started her day being part of a gender empowerment assembly. Stacey’s comments echo those of many of the other girls who found the assembly a supportive and inspiring experience. The number one reason girls don’t take part in sport or physical activity is the fear of being judged by others about their looks, size, clothes, ability and their choice to take part. Stacey’s comments become even more significant given the high percentage of girls who have low levels of body confidence. Instilling confidence and providing girls with positive sporting role models help to dispel the stereotypes that you have to look a certain way to participate in sport. The highlight of the assembly was the interview between two Great Britain international basketball players, Paige Robinson and Rosalee Mason. They highlighted their own stories of success, adversity inspiration and hope. Paige, a 19-year-old basketball player currently on a scholarship in the US, has represented England from the age of 15 and has played internationally in Spain. Her love of basketball started at London Thunder when she was 13. Rosalee Mason was capped for England over 65 times, has played all over the world and is now a coach. Paige and Rosalee had a massive impact on students because they are local heroes; in them, students could see themselves and how they could reach for their own dreams. The players caused an even greater stir when they showed the girls their medals. Rosalee also produced the Olympic torch, as she was a torchbearer in London during the 2012 Olympic Games. The power of the sports role model is well and truly alive Paige Robinson and Rosalee Mason are powerful role models who come from the same community as the girls. They showed the aspiration gap can be bridged; girls can dare to dream at something bigger. The power of the sports role model is well and truly alive: not only by inspiring the future generation of young people to dare to dream big but also to believe in their own somebodyness, to be proud of their bodies and to take part in physical activity, and give basketball a go too! The assembly started with Sport England’s most recent Maya Angelou narrated This Girl Can video followed by a presentation of images of sportswomen varying in shapes, sizes and build. The following discussion focused on body confidence, barriers to sport for girls, gender stereotypes, discrimination and the importance of physical activity. As part of the presentation the students were shown a photograph of the girls team at London Thunder basketball club; a club with a small girls team looking to expand. The assembly was energetic with rousing high fives and two clap moments – and spot prizes of London Thunder drawstring bags and autographs from the players. The assembly feedback from the students was very positive: ‘The best assembly we’ve had all year’‘I loved meeting Paige she is such an inspiration and her story makes me feel motivated’‘I liked the video about how girls can do sport and not letting people say you can’t’‘I liked the video because it inspired me to be more active and inspired me that anyone can do anything as long as they put their mind to it’‘I liked Paige speaking because it was easier for us to feel more of a connection, as she is closer to our age and it’s from someone who lives near us’ BIP has reached 1400 young people aged 11-16 years old and was delivered in four South London secondary schools (three girls schools and one mixed) in Lewisham and Southwark. Find out more: The Basketball Inspiration Programme (BIP) The assembly is part of the Basketball Inspiration Programme (BIP) which is a sport for social change programme using basketball to inspire and motivate girls to increase their levels of physical activity, enhance well-being and to challenge gender stereotypes. BIP also includes school and community basketball coaching masterclasses. This unique programme has had a strong impact on young people: Student feedback: ’This project was amazing!’‘My body is not the most important thing but it’s what I can achieve’‘I love how my body isn’t perfect but it’s not terrible either’ Teacher feedback: ‘Students can see what they can achieve – helping them to engage with external local role models made them realize that success is achievable’‘Our girls are very tentative, it’s important for them to see female leaders in sport’‘Throughout the whole assembly there was a role model for every young woman present’ The Basketball Inspiration Programme is important work in 21st Century Britain as it highlights the intersections of discrimination, recognizes the complexities of gender norms and the very specific challenges for young women as they grapple with growing up, their body image and their relationship with sport and physical activity. The Schools Basketball Coaching Masterclass The basketball coaching masterclasses delivered by the players who are also both qualified coaches focused on fun basketball activities including dribbling, passing, shooting competitions and small-sided games. This was no ordinary PE lesson and students were seriously put through their basketball paces! Every effort was made to understand some of the barriers to sports participation for girls, so toiletries were given to all students at the start to encourage girls to give maximum effort. The aim of the masterclass was to give the young women a positive experience of basketball as an accessible sport open to all regardless of shape, size or their background. Schools come together: Basketball Coaching Masterclass at London Thunder The following week all of the students from each of the schools were invited to a basketball masterclass at nearby local London Thunder basketball club. A group of 70 young women took part in some serious fun – they were once again put through their paces from shooting, lay up, footwork and dribbling drills to games they were also treated to the tricks and flairs demonstrations from the basketball players/coaches which left the girls spellbound as they watched the 6ft 4 Paige Robinson dunk away to her hearts content. The feedback from the students was that they were inspired to join Thunder basketball club. Students also commented on meeting new people and building up their confidence. The Thunder Girls teams are now welcoming new BIP players to training. About Author Michelle Moore is a former athlete and award-winning Sport & Inclusion Consultant. She is a Runnymede Trust Trustee, Director at Moore Development Ltd, and The Women's Sport Trust Inclusion Advisor. She founded the Basketball Inspiration Programme to raise awareness of and tackle barriers to sport for girls, and gender stereotypes and discrimination.