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Alecia Ivery, Senior Programs Manager of Training and Coach Support for Girls in the Game

James Foster/For the Sun-Times

How a Chicago woman is helping get exercise into the daily lives of girls

Alecia Ivery is a senior manager with Girls in the Game, which provides sports, health, and leadership programs for 45K young women across the city, especially on the South and West sides.

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Alecia Ivery is the owner of an impressive streak unlikely to show up in any record books.

Last month, the 28-year-old completed her 14th consecutive summer camp with Girls in the Game, a Chicago-based nonprofit.

“Nope, I haven’t taken a break yet,” Ivery said.

Founded in 1995, Girls in the Game provides sports, health, and leadership programs for young women ages 7 to 18. The organization teaches traditional sports such as softball, flag football, and basketball and non-traditional sports like lacrosse, rugby — and even dancing. The girls are also mentored in emotional health, nutrition, self-advocacy and leadership.

“We try to focus on the whole girl. Being introduced to sports is part of it, but then we also give them well-rounded life skills,” she said.

Girls in the Game is especially focused on assisting marginalized communities. According to Ivery, many of the 45,000 girls who’ve participated in the after-school or summer camp programs are African Americans or Latinas growing up on Chicago’s West and South sides who don’t get enough opportunities for exercise in their daily lives.

“In Chicago, [the girls] often don’t feel safe going a lot of places outside and that definitely plays a role,” she said. “So we’re definitely concentrating in places like North Lawndale, Englewood and Humboldt Park because there’s a big need for programs like ours there.”

In other words, Ivery is targeting girls from the same circumstances she experienced as an African American girl raised in Back of the Yards. She attended her first Girls in the Game camp in 2005 at the age of 14. At that time, she was a high school basketball player looking to try other athletic activities in a supportive environment free from the pressures of competition of most youth sports.

“It was so much fun and opened up the possibilities,” she said. “I’d definitely never played a sport like lacrosse before and I discovered that I really loved softball.”

The camp also helped Ivery discover her future career path.

“It lit a fire under me that made me realize I wanted to be involved in coaching and mentoring girls in some capacity,” she said.

What she didn’t expect then is that she’d eventually come full circle with Girls in the Game. After high school, she volunteered as a summer camp coach while also earning her undergraduate degree from Hope College in Holland, Michigan and a master’s degree in coaching and athletic administration from Concordia University in Irvine, California.

She returned to Chicago after college in 2013 and worked for Girls in the Game for two years while serving as a member of AmeriCorps. A year later, in 2016, the nonprofit hired her full-time as a senior manager of Training and Coach Support.

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For the Sun-Times

Now she’s the one coaching the organization’s coaches and volunteers.

“I wasn’t sure I’d enjoy at first because I’m not working with the girls as much,” she said. “But it’s been very rewarding helping these coaches grow and preparing them to have the kind of relationship with the girls that I had when I was a participant.”

But she still gets to work with 7th and 8th grade girls as a basketball coach at Alphonsus Academy & Center for the Arts and assists with sport and movement groups at her church. Sometimes, she even has time to play basketball again.

“My girls challenge me so I definitely have to get out there from time to time,” she said.

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