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Youth Leaders in Singapore creating a Basketball For Girls program
25/03/2020
Foundation
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Youth Leaders in Singapore creating a Basketball For Girls program

"Whilst we would usually implore you to play basketball as often as you can, our message today is to help the greater cause of protecting public health. In no circumstance should our passion to play basketball surpass the importance of following the instructions of the public authoritie.". This statement was made by FIBA Secretary General Andreas Zagklis and FIBA President Hamane Niang yesterday. Needless to say that we fully support this. We will overcome this together and as a proof of the power of sport we would like to use this time off the courts to share the story of 3 beneficiaries of our Youth Leaders Basketball Cup.

SINGAPORE - As part of the IBF 3x3 Youth Leaders Cup project, the Foundation is empowering Young Leaders throughout South East Asia and the Pacific to become leaders in their communities. They go through a workshop that gives them the tool to use basketball for good, using the sport to address different issues that their communities are facing.

3 Youth Leaders from Singapore have joined forces to tackle a lack of playing opportunities for girls, empowering them to find their sport on the courts of Singapore.

Read the 'The inside story behind Basketball for Girls' as written by Paul Ng, one of the Youth Leaders:

The thud of bouncing balls and metal rings absorbing the missed shots are audible from far. A small group of boys are shooting at one end of the basketball court, mimicking their heroes from the NBA. Ten girls stand at the other end of the court, waiting for the boys to leave so they cand commence their 5-on-5 game.

A voice booms out from the pack of girls, “Hey! We need the court now!”

This group of girls has been meeting up since the start of the year to play basketball, in a program called Basketball For Girls. The program was initiated by Basketball For Good Singapore, and its name is a play on the #BasketballForGood movement initiated by the International Basketball Foundation (IBF), the social and legacy arm of FIBA.

Basketball For Girls is the brainchild of Amanda Lim, Chin Wan Qing and Paul Ng, three friends who were nominated into the IBF Youth Leaders program, and who share a common belief in women’s empowerment and women in sports.

“We all believe in the empowerment of women and the power of using sports to tackle gender inequality,” said Paul. “So we figured, why not use basketball? The three of us had a common goal to see more women involved in the game and we wanted to see what activities we can do to bring about this change.”

The central premise behind Basketball For Girls is a simple one, getting girls to play basketball leisurely with their friends.

The idea behind the program started from one of their dinner conversations. After hearing a story from Wan Qing about Run.JPG (@run.jpg_), a runners’ community that meets up once a week for a jog around central Singapore, the group had an epiphany. “We thought to ourselves, ‘hey, we can do something similar’,” said Paul.

Run.JPG’s core philosophy of making sports a daily habit through inviting friends (and their friends inviting their friends, and their friends’ friends... you get the picture) into their runners’ family for their weekly runs were the inspiration behind the Basketball For Girls program. “We wanted to build on the concept that Run.JPG did with the running enthusiasts,” said Paul. “It is a stunningly simple concept, yet it begs the question, why haven’t we seen more people do it?”

Basketball For Girls thus emerged from this backdrop, and the Youth Leaders began thinking of ways to build a network of females coming together to play basketball, regardless of age, ability or affiliation.

The program came with its own set of challenges, chief among those are finding an empty court and whether there are enough girls willing to play regularly. Some of the ladies took a bit of convincing. ‘Is this a training session? Who else is playing? Is this a club session? What if it rains?’ These are common questions posed to Wan Qing and Amanda when they first started floating the idea of a recreational basketball session to the ladies.

 

“In the beginning, it seems as if the younger girls are used to an authority figure dictating when they can play and who they are playing with or against,” the group observed. “Gradually, once the girls start getting comfortable and familiar with each other, such passiveness was replaced by an enthusiasm to step onto the court at any given opportunity.”

A group of women playing basketball is not a novel idea. Basketball is one of the sports available to girls in a number of schools in Singapore. There is also an established women’s league and various tournaments for the ladies in the country. Still, it is rare to see a big group of ladies playing together recreationally. Chances are that if you spot a group of ladies on the court, they are doing so in an organized setting, either having team practice or a competition.

“Basketball has one of the highest participation rates in the country, and it is especially popular among the male population,” Paul shared. On most nights, the free-to-play courts are packed. Female basketballers are usually the afterthought here. Occasionally, a couple of girls are seen joining the boys in their games, and that’s about it. Playing in such a male-dominated environment has its drawbacks. The ball is bigger and heavier than what the girls are used to. The boys around you seem so much faster and stronger. If you are in possession of the ball, the boys usually aren’t going to defend with as much intensity, meekly raising their arms in your direction.

What the girls need is an avenue, a platform for them to play recreational basketball with other girls. If the boys can play on a regular basis, so can the girls. “The court belongs to me, as much as it belongs to you, we have as much right to play on the court as you,” Wan Qing stresses.

“We want to send the message to the girls that you need not be confined to only playing organized ball. You can gather your friends and play recreationally too,” Amanda said. “We save our competitive juices for our club’s training and competitions. Out here, we are just like everyone else, playing the game we love at a recreational level.”

And besides, the ladies have the opportunity to mingle and develop new friendships outside their usual circle,” Amanda continued. “Coming from different schools and clubs, what we all share in common is the love for the game.”

Back at the court, the game is tied 6-6, and the first team to score 11 wins. The girls seemed to play with a freedom afforded by a non-competitive environment. Their desire to win is contagious, even in a leisure setting. Free from the shackles of adhering to a system and playbook, the girls are able to unleash their creativity, trying out moves that they probably wouldn’t dare attempt in a competitive game. Two other teams sat by the sidelines, gripped by the action unfolding in front of them, eagerly awaiting their turn to step onto the court.

Wan Qing is adamant in her vision for the legacy of the program. “We want to dispel the notion that sports is for men. Women can do sports too. Likewise, basketball is a game not just for the boys, but for girls too. Young girls can look at what we are doing and think hey, it is okay for girls to play basketball too.”

“Take the initiative to call your friends, grab a ball, and play the game you enjoy in your own time. Just getting onto the court and sweating it out beats staying at home on your couch binging on your favorite shows,” said Amanda. “Hopefully, we can inspire other groups of girls to do the same.”

One day, perhaps, basketball in Singapore will be a sport identified with women as much as men.

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Basketball For Good Singapore is an initiative led by Wan Qing (@wanqinggggg), Amanda (@amandalimzhiyan) and Paul (@loudquietloud). They are the Singaporean change agents chosen by the International Basketball Foundation (IBF) to lead the charge on tackling social issues using the game of basketball. Follow the team and their activities on Instagram at @basketballforgoodsg.