Sunday, May 25, 2008

Program in League of its Own 

Posted by James at 5:19 PM ET

Clinics teach girls about fun and games
By Jessica Vosgerchian
The Buffalo News
Jutting out her hip in time with the Buffalo Jills and returning serves in a game of tennis, Amalia Sutton ran around the Buffalo Bills Fieldhouse like it was her personal playground.

But the 8-year-old’s favorite part of her Saturday morning was when she got her wrists wrapped like Bills players do before a game.

“I like when I’ve got these on,” she said, beaming at her wrists. “I’m going to trick my mom.”

Girls in Sports, a program founded last year by Mary Wilson, wife of Bills owner Ralph Wilson Jr., introduces girls under age 12 to sports and healthy living through workshops, free sporting events and newsletters.

At the program’s last event of the year, about 150 local Girl Scouts and girls from the Buffalo Public Schools, United Way and Police Athletic League toured the Bills fieldhouse and participated in fitness and sports clinics, including a cheerleading demonstration by the Buffalo Jills.

Buffalo Jills

Of four sports clinics, which also included football, tennis and volleyball, the Jills’ simple cheer and dance routine was the most popular for the girls, Wilson said.

After meeting the Jills, Stephanie Stone, 9, and her sister Mariah, 10, said they want to start cheerleading. “I like that we can do any pose we want,” Stephanie said.

But Ryann West, 9, preferred the football clinic’s obstacle course and the tennis clinic’s volleys. “I ran and I made a goal when I threw the football,” she said.

After trying tennis at the event, West said she wants to join a team. “I never played it before,” she said. “It’s a fun sport, and more people should try it.”

Wilson said she started the program because of the self-confidence she developed playing tennis as a girl.

“It was something I could do my entire life,” Wilson said. “I think sports bring a confidence in yourself, bring friends who have your same interests.”

The program exposes girls to basic sports skills and healthy living tips, and partners them with young athletes who can serve as role models and teach them about sportsmanship and dedication, Wilson said.

The fieldhouse event, which closed the program’s calendar until next fall, included volunteer instructors from the Bills’ staff, Niagara Frontier Volleyball, and a North Tonawanda Sportsplex tennis team.

Wilson said she has no set plans for expanding the program, but would like to do more with the community in the future.

“My husband would probably say no, but I say yes,” she said. “I would love to do more with the people of Buffalo. I would love to actually live in Buffalo — that would help.”

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