Photo depicting a Filipina-presenting basketball coach wearing a pink T-shirt and coaching a group of girl basketball players.

OPINION | Get in the Game for Girls’ Sports

by April Lorenzo

This year’s NCAA women’s basketball tournament was one for the books. I was riveted by the upsets, the nail-biting plays, the unsung heroes, and the banter and gestures making headlines. Not only did the tournament shatter records as the most watched semifinal and championship games in women’s basketball TV history, but players like Caitlin Clark and Angel Reese left their mark in a way that young girls and adults will be talking about for years to come. 

I wish I’d had more female athletes as role models when I was growing up. Playing sports wasn’t easy for a Filipina girl from a single-parent home in Rainier Valley. My mom didn’t drive, money and access were barriers, but we made it work so I could play basketball. 

In the 1990s, there weren’t many resources for girls interested in sports, so I played alongside the boys, earning their respect and sparking the interest of a coach named Buck. He saw my potential and invested in it. I continued to play in high school and college.

Photo depicting three individuals (a Black woman, Black man, and Filipina woman) posing at a Seattle Storm game.
April Lorenzo (right) and her former coach Buck (middle) at a Seattle Storm game. (Photo courtesy of April Lorenzo.)

Sports benefited me greatly. I gained confidence and opportunities I wouldn’t have received otherwise. Through hoops, I made lifelong friends who became family. I learned to be independent and worked hard for what I wanted. Today, I try to pass on these same benefits as the athletic director of Seattle Girls’ School (SGS)

But my experience was the exception, not the rule. For most girls interested in sports, the support and encouragement are not there like they are for boys. Despite the gains made in the 50 years since the passage of Title IX, troubling trends continue.

According to a King County Play Equity Coalition’s State of Play report from 2019, girls are less physically active than boys. The report also reveals that the number of girls playing sports drops from 90% in fifth grade to 68% by senior year of high school. This needs to change. 

First, we need to challenge outdated narratives that discourage girls from being athletic and give them more chances to try out sports in a supportive environment of family, friends, and coaches who encourage them to play, including more camps and trainings. We do this at SGS by allowing students to play sports in a “safety zone” — no tryouts, no cuts, and lots of encouragement to try something new.

Next, girls need access to quality athletic facilities. Sedona Prince from the University of Oregon galvanized us when she posted a viral TikTok, revealing the gross inequality of facilities offered to the men and women’s basketball teams. Providing girls with quality facilities sends the message that we value their desire and capabilities to play sports. At SGS we’re working towards realizing our dream of a gym, something we’ve gone without for 20 years. We envision a future space for our students with stadium bleachers, multiple courts, and space for the greater community to rally around our student-athletes.

Finally, girls need female coaches and athletic role models so they can picture a future in sports. That kind of representation speaks volumes. As a young athlete, I only had four female coaches, and only one was a Person of Color. Many women are juggling careers and families, and study after study shows they do the bulk of unpaid labor in the home, making it challenging to carve out the needed time to coach. I am proud to be that role model to our students at SGS, especially our students of color.

It’s time we invest in girls’ sports. All young athletes deserve quality programs and facilities. Girls must see a future where professional female athletes earn equal pay. Women coaches need more support so that girls have athletic leaders who see them and understand their experiences. 

While I reflect on the NCAA basketball finals this year, I’m hopeful of a future where everyone believes in the potential and strength of girls — especially girls themselves.

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April Lorenzo is the athletic director at Seattle Girls’ School.

📸 Featured Image: (Photo courtesy of April Lorenzo.)

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