Girls Play Sports began in 2012 with the Girls Play Sports Festival which was designed to introduce 5th grade girls to a wider variety of sports and inspire them to be athletes through middle school and into high school.  The GPS Festival hosted by ETHS is free and open to all 5th grade girls in District 65 during the afternoon of one of the district’s professional development half days.  In October of 2014, over 225 fifth graders participated and were led by 35 ETHS female athletes and 8 ETHS coaches.  Lunch was provided and the girls participated in three sports of their choice with a Pep Rally and prizes to conclude the day.

Due to an increasing demand for more programming, Girls Play Sports expanded the next year to offer GPS After School Clinics at grade schools and park district facilities to introduce girls to two new sports each month.  It is a free program for 4th and 5th grade girls that is taught by high school female athletes.  In its third year of operation last year, over 50 clinics introduced 12 different sports to just under 300 different girls.

The growing success of the GPS Festival and the GPS After School Clinics created the demand to provide more programming for middle school girls.  In 2014, the Team GPS program was created to do just that, with monthly sports units that introduce two sports each session.  High school and collegiate athletes provide hands on instruction for the skills and strategies of these sports.  Team GPS is a curriculum-based program with structured time devoted to discussing topics that affect teenage girls such as friendships and relationships, social media, bullying, body image, health and nutrition, drugs and alcohol, and career exploration.

This coming year, in an effort to fill a void in competitive programming, Girls Play Sports is very excited to be offering leagues and tournaments for sports that are not currently offered for girls in the Evanston community.  There will be a 4th and 5th grade fall volleyball league, a 3-on-3 winter basketball tournament, a spring middle school badminton tournament and a summer water polo league at Evanston Township High School. Leagues will be six weeks long and tournaments will consist of pool play followed by a bracketed tournament.  Each league and tournament session will begin with a 45-minute skills segment to ensure the basic fundamentals are taught.  Teams will be assembled to provide competitive balance and rules will be implemented to reinforce the importance of proper fundamentals.  Effort Awards will be presented to the girls that demonstrate the best attitude and effort throughout the day.  This program will expand and deepen our girls’ connection and interest in sports while giving them the hands-on experience to strengthen their confidence to compete.

While Girls Play Sports is currently an Evanston-based program, GPS is very interested in working with other communities across Chicago and beyond to create programming opportunities that will significantly increase female participation in sports.  If you would like more information on how to bring a GPS program to your community, please contact us at info@teamgps.org.