On August 9th and August 11th, PYB will be hosting the Girls’ Empowerment Program for high school-aged female student-athletes. The basketball development and off-court facilitated gender-specific conversations will be run by a first-rate staff of six accomplished women with strong roots in the Philadelphia basketball community. For an inspiring and empowering example of how to own the challenge of growing up as a female-student athlete, the girls in attendance will have to look no further than one of their six coaches—Jayla Greene. Now a sophomore point guard at nearby Gwynedd Mercy University, Greene is a living testimony of the value that the game of basketball can have in shaping passionate and energetic young girls into bright and productive young women.
Growing up as the only girl in a house full of boys, Greene channeled her passion and energy into sports at a very early age. She recalls finding her first outlet in the sport of football, competing as the only girl on the gridiron, before eventually making the basketball court her home as early as age six.
“I fell in love with it right away,” she says. “I was never the best player, never the tallest, and never one of the first taken in pick-up, but I found that I loved to play because it was a huge tool that helped me navigate through the elementary and middle school years that can be so tough for girls.”
“It helped me relive stress, keep my mind right, stay out of the street, do the right thing, and connect with and receive help from mentors in the basketball community. I think the most important role that basketball had for me growing up, however, was helping me grow academically,” she says. “If I wanted to play ball, I had to get my grades up and I had to work in the classroom. My mom told me I had to have all A’s and B’s throughout high school or else I couldn’t play. That kept me motivated to work and learn on and off the court, and I think that has shaped me greatly into who I am today.”
Greene excelled on the court and in the classroom at Springfield Township High School. For all of her formative years she was a part of the Philly Triple Threat AAU Program, founded by PYB Program Director, Eric Worley. Through her connection and relationship with Worley, Greene has been serving as the only female coach on staff for PYB’s Collegiate Summer Camp Series, where she has reveled in her role of mentoring and overseeing the progress of countless inner-city girls just like herself.
“I never had a female coach growing up and I feel like there is a general lack of female mentors for girls in basketball, so I feel that my role as the only female coach is very important,” she states. “A lot of the girls at our camps come up to me and ask me for advice, help, or even just want to talk, and that makes me feel really good. Being a person that a young girl playing ball can look up to is very fulfilling and is a necessary role to play in their lives.”
“I think the experience overall [of the Collegiate Summer Camp Series] is beneficial to all these young girls,” she says. “Female basketball players are usually underrated in terms of being able to play with guys, but then you look here and see that the best girls are just as good as the best guys. It is making these girls realize that they have a talent that can take them places. It’s not always about playing basketball too; it can take them places off the court.”
As far as the upcoming Girls’ Empowerment Program, Greene believes that it will be a different, yet just as valuable of an opportunity for the older group of girls.
“I am very excited for it because a lot of girls from the city do not have that outlet and safe space to let loose and learn emotionally, physically, and mentally,” she says. “It is very important because there are not a lot of outreach programs for female basketball players that are anything more than just skills and drills. We have an all-female staff comprised of women who are looking to give back in areas more than just basketball and provide female mentorship that can be so valuable in a young female student-athlete’s life.”
After graduating college and getting her degree, Greene is set on continuing to coach for a living. Judging by her work at PYB this summer and her willingness to serve, there is no doubt that she will be a positive presence in the lives of many young female basketball players in the future.
By Isaac Bushnell, Corporate-Based Intern