USA Basketball is trying to do its part to keep young women involved in sports once their playing careers are over.
The organization hosted a Women in the Game seminar Saturday in Santa Barbara, California, where the women’s national team is training. The event brought together high school and college athletes to listen to a variety of speakers from all different areas of sports.
“All credit goes to the youth division,” USA Basketball national team director Carol Callan said.
“In essence, what we’re trying to do is have four buckets: being an athlete, being a coach, being a referee and being in administration or business of sports.”
Callan said the youth division was charged with trying to elevate the game and shore up areas that could make a difference.
“One of the thoughts was sometimes there aren’t as many females in leadership positions in sports,” Callan said. “Could we do something that could help them see other women in those leadership roles and maybe learn from them?”
The daylong seminar had all female speakers that included Violet Palmer — the first female official in the NBA — and Indiana Fever president and general manager Kelly Krauskopf.
Krauskopf enjoyed the chance to speak to the few dozen students in attendance.
“I would have killed to have an opportunity to sit in a room for a day and listen and interact with the speakers that were here when I was younger,” she said. “There was real interaction and a question-and-answer session.”
Ki’ana Thomas made the trip to Santa Barbara from Los Angeles, where she is a track runner for Azusa Pacific University. She was one of about 50 athletes in attendance.
“I wasn’t familiar with Santa Barbara, but taking that risk figuring out how to get to (here),” Thomas said. “It’s for my future. It was a leap of faith like Katie (Smith) was saying. I feel really good. A lot of things I say to myself, a lot of people are talking about.”
Besides listening to the speakers, the attendees also watched some of the national team practice.
“We all have a story to share,” said USA Basketball coach Dawn Staley, who also spoke at the event. “Obviously I want to tell my story as much as possible. It’s unique, ray of hope for staying in the game. To hear those speakers all in one place will give those females an opportunity to hear what it takes. Attributes it takes to become successful in our business. We can share our stories so we can keep wonderful young ladies in our sport.”
Callan said that she hopes the program can expand next year, doing a few different seminars around the country.
“We’ve been trying to figure out the best place to do it,” Callan said. “All of a sudden it came together with the perfect place to do it with the national team training. Hopefully we can do this a few different times next year.”