Well, last Monday, about 30 local girls from throughout Union City lined up at the gym at Jose Marti Middle School for their shot to become the next Lisa Leslie of the Los Angeles Sparks or Sheryl Swoops of the Houston Comets.
Alice DeFazio, associate director of athletics for New Jersey City University (NJCU), and Ashante Timoll, women's head coach for the NJCU Gothic Knights, hosted a free, all ages girls' basketball clinic on Monday, June 4, after school.
"We are here to teach the fundamentals of basketball and life skills," said DeFazio.
The duo was invited to host the clinic at Jose Marti Middle School after local parent Priscella Wood, whose own daughter Ebony is a member of the school's championship basketball team, brought it up to the school administration.
For the past two years, DeFazio and Timoll have been running inner city girls' basketball clinics in Jersey City through their organization SPICES (Sisters Promoting Inner City Education Through Sports).
"It was something we talked about, and it was a passion that [we shared]," said DeFazio. "We think we can get bigger and better, and give the kids a whole different perspective."
Through SPICES they volunteer their time and teach girls the basic fundamentals of basketball, as well as open discussions and life lessons to be learned through sports.
"One of the focuses is to promote [the clinics] outside of Jersey City," said DeFazio. "This is our starting point here in this area."
Girls just want to have fun
After a quick introduction and some stretching, DeFazio and Timoll split the girls, ages 5 through 15, by age bracket and threw them right into learning some basic skills.
"We're working hard, and it helps you in becoming a better player," said Loretis Lantigua, 11.
The little ones were also working hard and getting in on the action through drills, learning passes, and working together.
"My hands hurt, but I like it," said Amber Concepcion, 5.
"I like it the most when we throw the ball and our partner has to catch it," said Jacqueline Gonzalez, 5.
Life in sports
The program, however, is not just basic skills on the court, but also includes life skills off the court.
"We tailor the program accordingly," said DeFazio. "We talk about basketball fundamentals, and they ask about our experience as players, and as coaches."
The clinics, which until now have been mostly held in Jersey City, promote education through sports, and build up character traits such as motivation, focus and discipline, which help in preparation for college.
"These are life lessons that can go along with learning through sports," said Timoll. "We want to give girls these opportunities and a place where they can feel comfortable."
Although female athletes and coaches are more common today, they are still few and far between, and mostly due to lack of information that these opportunities exists for girls.
"I have been around this sport all of my life, and when I close my eyes I feel like it hasn't changed much at all," said DeFazio.
So, as part of the educational component, DeFazio and Timoll also want to promote possible futures in sports careers from playing or coaching to administration work.
"We want to keep their interest peaked," said Timoll. "Really let them know the opportunities at their [disposal], and that they can have successful careers in sports."
"We really want to bring it out to the urban areas, where many girls don't have these opportunities," said Timoll. "If you give us a call, we will come out to your area."
Timoll and DeFazio have been able to host several clinics throughout Jersey City and Bayonne, which have been arranged through many of their personal contacts.
"We want to change the whole mentality, of it's not a girl thing," said DeFazio. "Girls can get sweaty and get down and dirty, and it's all right."
For more information or to arrange for the clinics, call DeFazio at (201) 320-5500. Comments on this piece can be sent to: Jrosero@hudsonreporter.com.