Nashville-based nonprofit encourages young girls to be their best.
As a graduate student in 2004, Dr. Kimberly Clay established Play Like A Girl as an organization to make sports an integral part of life for middle school-age girls. Two years later the organization was structured formally as a nonprofit corporation focused on providing women and girls with the knowledge, tools and resources necessary to adopt and maintain a healthy lifestyle to combat chronic diseases. Today the organization focuses squarely on promoting those objectives.
“Play Like a Girl seeks to advance the health and empowerment of women and girls through the transformative power of sport and physical activity,” says Dr. Clay. “Our mission is in our name. This is our purpose. This will be our legacy. With an emphasis on developing girls’ potential, we engage and address the needs of young women across the lifespan – from the schoolyard to the boardroom. We never speak stereotypes or biases to women of any age; rather, we inspire and challenge them to rewrite the rules.”
In 2010, Play Like a Girl hosted its first full-scale after-school club program serving 350 middle school girls from underserved communities in Dallas, Texas. Since then, programming has expanded to include more club programs and the popular Pop-Up Play Day, providing more than 10,000 girls across the United States and Canada with positive experiences in sport and physical activity.
In 2015, Play Like A Girl’s national headquarters moved to Nashville where it continues to flourish as a volunteer organization with core programs operating in Davidson, Rutherford, Williamson and surrounding counties.
“Research shows that just over one-fourth of girls ages nine to 13 report no free-time physical activity, classifying themselves as sedentary outside of school,” says Dr. Clay. “Having access to sports and physical activity both at and outside of school, and in an environment that provides positive support and emphasizes healthy competition, can be key to girls embracing sports as an integral part of their lives.”
Play Like a Girl Clubs are small groups led by volunteer coaches that meet weekly to introduce girls, grades 6-8, to a variety of sports and physical activities in a supportive, all-girl environment. As girls develop athletic skills and healthy habits, they experience the benefits and excitement of taking risks that bolster their self-confidence and personal growth. Play Like a Girl provides the materials and support to run a successful club, including sports equipment and rewards along the way that makes it easy for girls to stay active and motivated.
The organization also offers free Pop-Up Play Days designed to get mothers and their daughters outside for some good old-fashioned active play. Produced in partnership with Play Like a Girl volunteers and community members, these events offer the tools and resources families need to reintegrate play into their daily lives.
“We want all girls to have the confidence and know-how to realize their full potential,” says Dr. Clay. “This starts with an active and supportive community. We leverage the collective power of female role models to empower girls through notebook mentoring, corporate field trips and an open exchange of ideas and information. We also share #IPLAYLIKEAGIRL stories on our blog and social media to inspire, teach and connect us.”
Women in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering or Mathematics) or sports-related careers can sign up to volunteer or mentor a girl at IPlayLikeAGirl.org.