Local News Prep Sports West Edition

Program offers girls a chance to compete, stay fit

SOUTH LOS ANGELES — A Los Angeles fitness program provides young girls with the opportunity to participate in sports and recreation services while improving their mental health.

After a lawsuit claiming that girls in Los Angeles did not have equal access to athletic and recreational services was filed in 1999, the Raise the Bar program was launched. That program evolved into what is now Girls Play LA. 

Girls Play L.A. is committed to improving young girls’ mental health and emotional intelligence, while also providing them with access to athletic programs. The Los Angeles Department of Recreation and Parks launched the program in 2002 as part of their Gender Equity program. 

Backed by Mayor Eric Garcetti and Department of Recreation and Parks Director of Gender Equity Affairs Francisca Castillo the program is available for girls ages 6-15 at 100 facilities. It is offered in South Los Angeles at the 109th Street, Baldwin Hills, Central Park, Denker, Expo Center- Roy A. Anderson, Fred Roberts, Gilbert W. Lindsay, Green Meadows, Hoover, Imperial Courts, Jackie Tatum, Jim Gilliam, Martin Luther King Jr., Mount Carmel, Rancho Cienega Sports Complex, Ross Snyder, Saint Andrews, South Park aka Barry White, and Trinity Recreation Centers.GPLA’s overall goal is to provide girls with the opportunity to engage in sports and recreation programs. To achieve this goal, it focuses on the under-representation of women in sports, administrative roles of sports and recreation programs, and as leaders. 

It also places an emphasis on increasing the number of female coaches, referees, instructors, mentors and other role models. It offers soccer, flag football, volleyball, basketball, cheer, ballet, yoga, kickboxing and more. 

Castillo, director of Gender Equity Affairs in the city Recreation and Parks Department, said, “There is not a typical day [in the program]. However, sports leagues are typically 8-10 weeks. … Classes are typically once a week for an hour.”

Participants are encouraged to stay involved until they are no longer eligible. Girls who exceed the age-requirement for GPLA have the opportunity to join the Women’s Officials Recruitment and Certification program. That program trains women 16 and older to become sports officials. 

Their annual Girls Play LA Sports Day event took place in May. The free event allowed GPLA participants from all recreation centers to enjoy sports clinics, live entertainment, lunch and much more. The program also participated in the Kids Expo California, empowering children and encouraging them to “reach beyond the stars.”

Girls Play L.A. occurs during after-school hours and on weekends. There is a subsidized fee of $10 per activity.

To get involved, visit their website www.laparks.org/sports/gpla or find them on Twitter and Instagram @girlsplayla.

By Sarah Jones-Smith