Sports Business Journal’s publisher has declared, “Women’s sports is the story in 2022.” Cable sports channel ESPN this year reported its highest viewership numbers for women’s professional and college basketball to date. And locally, The Shorewood Recreation Department has seen enrollment more than double in its new Girls Junior Greyhounds basketball program since its launch in 2021.
“We’ve always had a select boys program and it was important to offer girls the same opportunity to participate at this high level,” says Shorewood Recreation Supervisor Justin Calvert. “I started by sending out a parent survey to gage interest in a more competitive program and went from there. After our first tryouts last year, we accepted 13 girls into the program. Today, we have 34 girls.”
The Girls Junior Greyhounds program is for fourth through eighth graders seeking a more competitive alternative to the existing recreational program. Tryouts take place each September and teams are determined by skill level and age. This year, Shorewood was able to create two fifth-grade teams and one seventh-grade team.
The season runs October through March, with twice-weekly practices. The teams compete in southeastern Wisconsin’s premier girls youth league, playing a guaranteed 12 games during November and December, with a culminating tournament in late December. The first months of the new year, the teams compete in area tournaments.
There are two coaches per team, most of whom are volunteers with a shared interest in growing the girls basketball program. Jasmine Binion, head coach of the seventh-grade team, is a former Knox College basketball player who says she wants to inspire young women.
“I grew up in a program that had youth basketball starting in third grade and it was one of the most important things for me as a student and a player,” she says. “Through youth basketball, young women learn life skills. They learn leadership, communication, confidence and sportsmanship — skills they can take far beyond basketball.”
Binion says she and assistant coach Joel Nagle work to help players build confidence both on and off the court. “It’s not just about your record or winning, “she says. “It’s important to us to create an environment where making mistakes is okay, and growth is encouraged and celebrated.”
Nagle, who is also the parent of a seventh-grade player, adds that the program offers an opportunity for players to meet new people and try something outside of their comfort zone.
“Often, they find it’s something that they really enjoy,” Nagle says. “For me, it's very rewarding to see players practicing or playing a pick-up game at the school playground and truly enjoying the game with friends. I’ve also loved seeing the improvement our team has made and how very far the players have come in the past year.”
Calvert says he hopes to build on the program’s momentum and eventually expand to at least one team per grade level. “If there is interest,” he says, “I will do whatever I can to make it happen and run it to the best of my ability.”
For more information on the Girls Jr. Greyhounds program, visit: https://shorewoodrecreation.org/
[Pictured: Participants in the fast-growing Girls Junior Greyhounds Basketball program practice at the Atwater Elementary School gym. Photo credit - Patrick Manning]