How Aisha And Mako Plan To Empower Girls To Play More Basketball

by Kyle Ratke, Digital Content Manager

Digital Content Manager

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A push needs to be made to empower girls to feel like they can pursue sports at a young age.

By the time girls reach eighth grade, they are 50% more likely to drop out of sports than boys, something that creates barriers both physically and socially that can last a lifetime.

What better people to push that cause than the girls themselves? 

The Nike Game Growers program allows eighth-grade girls to share their ideas on how to encourage more girls to play sports. Two girls were selected by each participating WNBA or NBA team (both the Timberwolves and Lynx participated) to help develop and test their idea to put together a game plan to help grow girls in sports participation. 

The two representatives, and very smart and forward-thinking ones at that, for the Timberwolves were Aisha and Mako. The two filled out an online application to share their ideas about keeping girls — especially those from their East African and Muslim communities — from dropping out of sports, something Aisha believes can happen for numerous reasons.

“One of the challenges that girls face is that their parents wouldn’t allow them (to play) because their parents see basketball as an only-men sport,” Aisha said. “Another challenge that girls might face is they might feel like boys can make fun of girls and be like, ‘Oh, you’re a girl. You can’t play. You don’t know how to shoot, you don’t know how to dribble.’ Sometimes girls just feel like they’re not good enough to play. They don’t want to embarrass themselves on the court, so they decide not to play.”

Aisha and Mako were invited to the Nike World Headquarters in Beaverton, Oregon to help formulate their idea while working with Nike, the NBA and the WNBA to create their specific game plan, something Mako is confident will work because of the research that she and Aisha have put in.

“Our final game plan is to have a clinic/camp and I know it will be successful because I’m going to be reaching out to my team, other AAU teams, coaches and maybe even schools,” Mako said. “I’m going to be posting on social media forms and that’s how I know it will work.” 

To be able to work with other girls with the same goal in mind was ‘very special’ to both Aisha and Mako.

With the help of Game Growers, these ideas will be implemented and presented to the community.

We’ve learned that sports can be a great vehicle to drive change, and it’s apparent we very much need that change. Getting more girls playing basketball and sports in general ultimately tells a bigger story of our society and can help build different skill sets along the way.

“Basketball is always something that I have loved to play, and over time, just seeing girls becoming not interested or seeing girls whose parents wouldn’t allow them to play really broke my heart,” Aisha said. “I always kept basketball kind of close to me, and if there’s ever an opportunity, I always take the chance because I know there are some girls who will never get the opportunity to play basketball.”

You can learn more about Game Growers here.

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