Girls Got Game takes participation to new heights in North Canterbury

North Canterbury is no stranger to developing top basketball players and their recent success with Girls Got Game could see them usher in even more talent.

The association has been running girls-only holiday camps, after-school programs as well as a 3×3 competition for intermediate-aged rangatahi in their region, with all drawing great attendance.

North Canterbury Basketball Association (NCBA) Development Manager George Robinson says it’s been a pleasure watching our future Tall Ferns relishing their time on the court.

“One of the most rewarding parts to my job is seeing the positive impact basketball can have on kids, particularly with girls who maybe aren’t as drawn to it as early on as boys.

“We wanted to make sure that all the girls who turn up to our events walk away wanting to go back, so with all my briefings I’ve said that the day is about having fun and engagement

“Once we got everything set, I tried to leave as much of it as possible up to the four female coaches we had working at the camps alongside the likes of Tessa Morrison and Mary Goulding who’ve been huge from the delivery side.

The spike in participation numbers in 2021 didn’t happen by chance though. Robinson recognised mid-way through last year that while they had a lot of talent, the same couldn’t be said around interest.

Plans were drawn up following this finding with the aim of getting as basketballs in the hands of as many girls as possible. Funding from Tū Manawa Active Aotearoa got the ball rolling – its support covered the costs for four holiday camps and the gatherings’ marketing.

“Historically, North Canterbury has had a really strong girls programme having produced a number of Tall Ferns, Wildcats [Canterbury] and student-athletes in the States,” says Robinson.

“What I found last year though was that we were really top heavy and that outside of our top team we didn’t have great participation figures.

“Thankfully, things began to change after our first holiday camp and then the likes of our 3×3 competition took it to another level.

There have been three camps so far, one for each of the school-holiday break, with another planned for October. Each of the camps drew the maximum number of attendees (40).

This has led to over double the number of girls from 2020 (56) turning out in 2021 (125), which doesn’t include those playing in their primary school competition. The figures for that are yet to be confirmed.

Additionally, they saw a record-high 20 girls play in the under 13 winter club competition this year while also seeing a 30% growth in girls wanting to play under 13 representative basketball.

Robinson hopes this is only the beginning of girls picking up a basketball in his catchment.

“We are looking forward to continuing to grow the Girls Got Game programme into a weekly skills sessions and in-school visits, led by an employed ambassador to build on the growth and impact of our progress so far.

“When provided with a safe and engaging environment to play basketball in, the girls have thrived and are continuing to come back to our programme along with some of their friends.”

Girls Got Game was launched in 2019 to encourage female youth to participate in basketball and give them a comfortable space to play in. It is based on Basketball New Zealand’s junior programme called Kiwi Hoops, another initiative NCBA has shown growth in – 202 participants in 2020 and 300 in 2021 so far.