Free basketball program grants girls chance to improve skills in the court, learn life lessons
A free program in the Bronx gives an opportunity to teenage girls to focus on their basketball skills while learning valuable life lessons.
When seventh grader Chanelle Gadsten was asked to join an all-girls basketball team, she jumped on the opportunity.
"Because boys, they like to talk trash when you play with them," Gadsten says.
Coach Antoine Noble gave the offer to Gadsten.
"I grew up with parks always being filled, kids waiting to play next," Noble says.
Born in Harlem and bred in the Bronx, Noble has made it his mission to pass down life lessons through sports.
"I feel like sports is so much more than just dribbling a ball or scoring a goal. You learn leadership, you learn how to adapt to different types of individuals," Noble points out.
In 2020, he started We Got Next, an after school and weekend program in the Bronx where kids could play competitive sports for free.
The girls began to ask when a program would be available for them.
"And they would say, 'Hey, when are we going to have stuff for us?'" Noble recalls
It was a plea he just could not ignore.
"I'm a girl dad as well so it just touched my heart, and girls need this space," he adds
Soon after, She Got Next was born to offer young girls free high-quality basketball training and a safe place to better their game without having to deal with boys.
"Like on my team, they pass me the ball because they trust us. The boys in my school, they don't pass me the ball at all," Gadsten says.
"It's super important for girls to have spaces, especially for basketball because there's not that many places," says coach Dilaxy Solis.
Mentoring is also a major part of the program. The girls get to learn from inspiring women like Bronx native and former college basketball player Solis.
"I just see myself when I was a kid looking for places to play basketball, so I love to be a part of it. I wish I had this when I was a kid," she says.
Noble says the program has positively impacted the girls.
"I've seen such a building of their confidence because most of them were all beginners and months later, they're running in the gym ready for practice. They know exactly what they need to do," he says.
The group even finished in third place at the Junior Knicks Tournament earlier this month.
"Seeing the growth is what makes this worth it to me," Noble says.
The program is open to all kids ages 6 to 18 and the girls' team currently practices at Accion Academy on Monday nights.
"My favorite part is my teammates. We're all really good friends and we inspire each other to do more things," Gadsten says.
Since it started a few years ago, the program has been growing and now they hope to expand to other parts of the borough so more girls can play for free. For that, they mostly rely on donations.