WNBA Superstar Sue Bird Steps in as Guest Coach and Mentor.
Most of us have big dreams for our lives and a drive for success. Whether that's athletic success, career success, or financial success, the process it takes to achieve those goals is rooted in the learning the fundamentals.
“I want to play in the WNBA like Sue Bird” – Saniya, Point Guard
For the eleven 5th and 6th graders of the Seattle Rotary Lady Style basketball team out of Seattle's Central District Boys and Girls Club, success this year was winning big games.
“We're competitive, we have a few girls that honestly just don't know how good they are yet,” said Tasha Burns, head coach, Seattle Rotary Lady Style. “And we have some girls that are still working on the fundamentals and the basics and we also have a few girls that can play on a higher level.”
This summer BECU and the Seattle Storm teamed up to provide the girls with an unforgettable opportunity to inspire and motivate them through instilling valuable fundamentals that will hopefully prove vital towards achieving their immediate and future goals.
“Partnering with the Storm on this unique opportunity fits so well with our mission of people helping people; to help empower these girls to work towards achieving their dreams,” said Stephen Black, vice president, Marketing, BECU. “Both BECU and the Seattle Storm believe that reaching goals and achieving success requires encouragement and commitment. That starts with developing fundamental skills around knowledge and teamwork.”
Beyond winning games, this experience helped boost the confidence of these middle schoolers at a pivotal age for young girls.
“With a few of the girls, we've had some issues with bullying, we've had some issues with shyness and confidence, we've had some girls that maybe their home lives aren't as what we call normal in the social aspect,” shared Coach Burns.
Research shows the percentage of girls who feel confident about themselves drops from 72 percent in 6th grade to 55 percent in 10th grade. Sports can help change that statistic.
Girls who play sports have higher levels of confidence and self-esteem, are more likely to get better grades in school and more likely to graduate than girls who do not play sports.
“Being on a team and being surrounded by your teammates that end up becoming your friends and almost like family, there's something about that community that really encourages confidence and allows you to just be yourself,” said Sue Bird, point guard for the Seattle Storm.
The girls of Seattle Rotary Lady Style have only been playing basketball for one or two years.
“I like basketball because you get to put all your emotion on the court and all your hard work,” said Aniyah, guard.
“The girls are super athletic, they are naturally gifted basketball players; we have lost some games by just one or two and it's really frustrating for the girls because they know they can beat certain teams,” added Burns.
With sky-high potential, the team faces one big challenge.
“Practice is our main challenge. With our limited resources, we only have one practice a week as a team,” shared Burns.
As the team prepared for the 2016 AAU West Coast National Championships in Las Vegas– their first tournament away from home, what they needed was “that extra umph” to get them to the next level.
That's where BECU and the Seattle Storm stepped in.
Sue Bird surprised the girls at their weekly practice to run drills with them and afterwards, deliver two more HUGE surprises: An exclusive invitation to watch a Storm practice; and later attend a Storm game.
“I was really in shock” – Nadia, Guard
“I was like a stone” – Mya, Post
“It was like, wow” - Naveah, Guard
After practice, Sue gave the girls one key piece of advice, “the one thing I see that you all can do a lot better at is talking, it's so quiet in here.”
One month later at Key Arena for the Storm practice, the girls got back on the court with Sue to show big improvement.
“I could tell they had been working on their fundamentals. They're kids and they're young and the fundamentals at that age are super important, just the little things,” said Bird. “Communication level really was up, you could hear them calling each other's names.”
Coach Burns noticed a big impact too. They are attending practice on time and have come together more as a team. They are working harder and are more focused and motivated. They recently won a tournament AND qualified for a championship (something they weren't doing prior to the experience).
“I have noticed their confidence just get boosted up a lot during the last few weeks and the girls just being more comfortable with who they are and what their role is on the team. Even with the girls who may have had bullying issues or may have had body issues, the other teammates are helping them with that also. It's like we're a team and we're all going to help each other get through these issues,” said Burns.
The next day, the team hopped on a plane to play in the 2016 AAU West Coast National Championships in Las Vegas.
The girls won their first three games by a landslide; (45-30, 39 –27, 53– 38) but lost the last two games.
“They were definitely talking more and just a better team chemistry. There was lot more positive encouragement,” said Burns.
Burns is optimistic this experience will help her team succeed both on the court and off, “I feel like this is opening their eyes up to all the things that they want to do and can do and just giving them a bit more of a boost of confidence and what is out there in the world and that they can do anything that they put their mind to.”
BECU is inspired to help kids every day through its community partnerships and programs like the Early Saver kid's savings program. “It's so fulfilling to hear the impact this experience has had on the girls and the team, that's what we wanted to do, the Storm and BECU together,” said Black. “The discipline and fundamentals in the game of basketball that kids learn at a young age; the same thing applies to saving money, building discipline, good habits, even teamwork within the family, being able to talk about it and the importance of it.”
The Early Saver program helps teach the youth in the community about saving money, spending responsibly, and how interest rates help them earn even more by offering access to a high interest rate savings account.
Be Inspired: Read the savings stories from some of our All-Star savers who earned a role as a Storm Honorary Captain this season.