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by Hailey Greke

It's all about learning, making friends and sports when these girls get into the gym every Tuesday and Thursday night. From 5:30p.m. to 7:15pm it’s Girls in the Game time. Now in its fifth season, the program is running stronger than ever.

June Zimmer, program organizer and education professor, remembers when the whole thing got started a year and a half ago. “We launched a one-semester trial period, we had 40 spots, and we sold out immediately, and we had a wait list. Then it just grew and grew.”

It's all about learning, making friends and sports when these girls get into the gym every Tuesday and Thursday night. From 5:30p.m. to 7:15pm it’s Girls in the Game time. Now in its fifth season, the program is running stronger than ever.

June Zimmer, program organizer and education professor, remembers when the whole thing got started a year and a half ago. “We launched a one-semester trial period, we had 40 spots, and we sold out immediately, and we had a wait list. Then it just grew and grew.”

Zimmer first saw Girls in the Game as an after-school activity in school gyms, but decided to approach Recreation Services at the university about it instead. She said it was a matter of logistics when choosing a venue to host the program.

 “Logistically we have the equipment here; a lot of schools don’t have all the equipment necessary sometimes even to run a good phys ed. program. So this way we had all the infrastructure, we had everything we needed.”

Participants are divided into four groups, each with its own coach. Each group then picks a team name and cheer for the whole eight-week session. There are four stations set up around the gym. One station always involves physical activity, two are based on learning technical skills for a specific sport, and the last is rooted in building trust and friendship between the girls.

Clara Lightheart talked excitedly about what she likes most about Girls in the Game, “We kind of learn sports, because boys usually learn more sports and are better at sports, so she (Zimmer) made it up so girls could get into sports.” Another girl, Madison Zimmer, piped in enthusiastically, “So we could stand out.”

Parents Susan Cameron and Michelle Anderson like the sports aspect of Girls in the Game for other reasons. “I like the idea that it’s not specialized into one sport. It’s tough these days to give your kids a balance... This was nice that it was variety of sports and skills that were involved,” explained Cameron. Anderson said she wants her daughters to have the confidence to try different sports, so that when they get to school sports, they know what they’re doing.

Not only does Girls in the Game get the kids active, the program also offers options for the parents, like aerobics, use of the gym and even a personal trainer. “Being active while our kids are active, it’s also a modeling thing, we like them to see us being active,” said Cameron.

Coach Madi Bailey said the benefits flow both ways. “I feel like it helps toward my professional development as well as I feel like I’m helping the girls. It’s like a two-way street for me,” she said.

Bailey, an education student at the university, is partaking in her second coaching session with Girls in the Game. She loves working with the kids so much that she would like to start up a similar program in her own community, but a co-ed one.

Zimmer would like to see the program grow. Right now Girls in the Game is only targeted for residents in the south end of the city because of the limited amount of gym space. If more space ever became available she would like to extend to the rest of the city, and possibly even run the program at a facility in the north end.