Student-athletes volunteer for the impoverished
THE SANTA CLARA
November 14, 2013
Brandi Chastain stalks the ball, cocks back her leg and blasts a rocket-deep shot into the net, winning the 1999 FIFA Women’s World Cup for the United States.
All of her years of practice and the support from friends and family came to fruition on the biggest stage of all.
Chastain, a volunteer assistant coach for the women’s soccer team, co-founded the charity Bay Area Women’s Sports Initiative to help build moments like these for underprivileged young girls.
BAWSI is a nonprofit after-school program for impoverished families that gives young girls opportunities to be active in the community and to learn how to live healthy lifestyles.
Starting off with the goal to help lower the high obesity rates among young girls in the Bay Area, the charity developed into a much larger organization. It became more well known and publicized.
“It’s not just: Can we get these girls to be slimmer?” said Chastain. “It’s: Can we teach them the values we learned in sports, and can we give them role models that will help them see they also have the potential to be great?”
“It’s not just: Can we get these girls to be slimmer? It’s: Can we teach them the values we learned in sports, and can we give them role models?”
Volunteer collegiate and professional women athletes, including members of the Santa Clara women’s soccer, basketball, volleyball and club field hockey teams help teach the young girls how to play a wide variety of sports, and spend quality time interacting with them. These role models essentially play the big sister role for the girls both on and off the playing field.
In addition to participating in sports and playground activities, BAWSI Girls get opportunities to go on field trips to women’s sporting events through the program.
Chastain recalls a time when a girl tugged her on the sleeve and said, “Thank you for not giving up on me.”
She realized then that “BAWSI is bigger and more important than (she) ever thought it would be.”
This sentiment is echoed by Santa Clara women’s soccer player, Paige Robertson, who said, “It is really awesome to see how I can be such an inspiration to these girls and make such an impact in their lives by simply devoting a couple hours of my time.”
As the girls receive attention from positive female role models and grow more confident in their ability and self-image, “they blossom,” said Chastain. However, the girls are not the only ones who benefit from the program.
The mothers of the BAWSI Girls often sit on the sidelines and wait to pick up their daughters as the girls developed relationships with their role models and gained skills for future success in life.
Discontent with this reality, the BAWSI leaders decided to create Salud Para Vida for the women who never got the chance to be a BAWSI Girl.
Salud Para Vida allows the entire household to become healthier, as mothers learn nutrition and exercise, and the girls gain role models of health and wholeness in their daily lives outside of the program.
“We recognize the whole community,” Chastain said. “We wanted to educate these women who probably never had a chance to be on a team, who weren’t encouraged to work out and be healthy, who were instead encouraged to be a good cook or clean the house.”
BAWSI has two additional programs: BAWSI Rollers, which is a program similar to BAWSI Girls geared toward children with disabilities, and Dads and Daughters, where fathers bond with their girls by taking them to women’s sporting events.
Although BAWSI has experienced success, Chastain is far from complacent and wishes to see it expand.
The charity’s website features a virtual toolbox that provides all the information an after-school program needs to turn their girls into BAWSI Girls.
“This could be all over,” said Chastain. “The essence of BAWSI Girls could exist anywhere there is a middle school.”
As BAWSI concludes its eighth year of establishment, some of the first BAWSI Girls are maturing into young adults. With the skills, confidence and knowledge that the program instills in its members, it may not be long before a BAWSI Girl demands the nation’s attention with her athletic ability or intellectual prowess.
Contact John Flynn at email@example.com.