MERCURY PLAN-IT LEAGUE
1. Briefly describe the structure of your program.
In the summer of 1997 the Parks, Recreation and Library Department entered a community collaboration that brought excitement, basketball skills and many dreams to Phoenix girls. Phoenix is one of ten cities in the U.S. to have a Women’s National Basketball Association (WNBA) team, the Phoenix Mercury.
City of Phoenix Councilwoman Peggy Bilsten and Education Program Director Deborah Dillon developed the original program concept to provide young women with positive role models and overall career awareness. The Phoenix Mercury was seeking a way to provide community activities and welcomed the collaborative program. It also sought corporate sponsors for financial assistance. The department provides day-to-day administration. The two major program components are the PLAN-IT Internship Program for high school age young women, and the PLAN-IT League, a youth basketball league for young women ages 9-14 years.
The program philosophy is to provide young women with an exposure to sports careers beyond the role of a playing athlete. Interns meet weekly to gain exposure to personnel from local sports-related organizations, including the Phoenix Suns and Phoenix Mercury. Interns receive information on many topics associated with professional sports as well careers.
Interns are assigned to a coaching or refereeing placement. All interns have had basketball- playing experience, but are limited in coaching experience. Interns are trained in coaching during the initial three-week period and are given continual support, feedback and instruction throughout the program. Referees spend three weeks with several NCAA and other professional referees. The interns/coaches are responsible for supervising the individual teams and players. A staff from each site helps with team coordination, player registration, transportation, gym time, etc.
The PLAN-IT League philosophy is to provide a structured program for young women that stresses the importance of character development, self-esteem and career awareness. The PLAN-IT League is a recreational sports league that emphasizes skill development, teamwork, and provides an opportunity for equal recognition and playing time (as compared to programs for young males).
Youths in this program are able to interact with Phoenix Mercury players. Each Mercury player is designated as an honorary coach of each of the PLAN-IT League teams. Mercury players sit on team benches, coach, "high-five," motivate, and inspire young basketball players. All teams play a least one game at America West Arena, home to the Phoenix Mercury and the Phoenix Suns. Surveys showed that most parents and youths thought the interaction with the players is the highlight for them. However, parents also voiced their appreciation for developing a program specifically for their young daughters which promoted self-awareness, confidence, and opportunities. This program will continue to grow and set a standard for young women and women’s basketball.
The United States Conference of Mayors
J. Thomas Cochran, Executive Director
Copyright © 1999, US Conference of Mayors, All rights reserved.