ORLANDO – A vision for the future is an essential ingredient for the long-term success of any child.
The enhancement of interpersonal skills, formation of quality support systems, implementation of benchmarks and goals, and unlocking career ambitions are all elements that can help lead a child down a path to potential success. And sports can be the catalyst that assists with the development of all of those necessary qualities.
Recognizing the pivotal role sports can play in future success, the Orlando Magic recently announced a partnership with Orange County Public Schools' (OCPS) middle school basketball program with the featured tagline – The 2022 OCPS Middle School Basketball Season powered by the Orlando Magic. The season tipped off in January and will culminate with a championship game for both the girls' and boys' teams played in March.
As part of that initiative and in celebration of National Girls and Women in Sports Day, leaders from the Magic and AdventHealth visited Maitland Middle School on Wednesday prior to their girls' home basketball game and spoke with both teams – Maitland Middle and Howard Middle – about leadership and highlighting the value and importance of women in sports.
Magic Community Ambassador Bo Outlaw, Magic Senior Vice President of Marketing and Social Responsibility Shelly Wilkes and AdventHealth Strategic Partnerships representative Rachel Anderson sat on a panel hosted by Magic Manager of Youth Engagement and Development Adly Santiago to answer questions from the girls about their careers and informed them how sports helped set them up for success. They also worked with the kids to develop vision boards and provided them with guidance and how to achieve their future goals.
“We really wanted to bring them some different ways that they could expand their sports careers as they go from middle school basketball hopefully into further high school playing and then potentially into their professional careers as they go through life,” said Wilkes.
The visit was also part of Her Time to Play, a national grassroots initiative created by the WNBA and NBA to inspire the next generation of girls, ages 7-14, to play basketball in a positive and healthy way. This national initiative is dedicated to championing change on behalf of girls and women through the platform of basketball.
“The Her Time to Play initiative is really near and dear to my heart as a female athlete growing up in a really small town,” said Anderson of the national program that AdventHealth and the Magic are helping implement locally in Central Florida. “Girls still didn’t have the all the same opportunities to get out there and play and to be involved in sports that we have today. So, for me, growing up through all the years of high school sports and getting into college and seeing where sports can take me, that’s what we really want to show all these girls and hope we can share all the opportunities that exist for them today.”
The importance of these initiatives cannot be understated. According to the Women's Sports Foundation, twice as many girls compared to boys drop out of sports by the age of 14, which can be attributed to societal barriers that are primarily faced by girls. It is also important for young girls to have female mentors in sports, their local communities, and everyday lives, but according to the Aspen Institute only 28 percent of youth sports coaches are women. Her Time To Play aims to increase opportunities for women in coaching and athletic leadership across the youth sports landscape.
“For me personally, I really do credit team sports for the opportunity to get to play and to learn teamwork, collaboration, and communication,” said Wilkes. “All of those things are key. If we can get girls to continue to play sports all the way through their childhood into their school years, I think it will continue to build that confidence and the ability to work well with others, which is key for everyone’s future.”
Through their partnership with OCPS, the Magic will continue to provide support this season to the 47 middle school basketball programs in the county through a variety of activities and events including in-game activations, a coaches' clinic, and league initiatives for the youth.
On Feb. 4, the Magic’s coaching staff will host a Coaches’ Clinic for Jr. Magic league partners, youth basketball camp coaches and OCPS middle and high school basketball coaches. The team and NBA will also continue to host programs for OCPS middle school athletes.