Some 100 smiling, high-fiving and high-energy girls filled Toronto’s MLSE Launchpad (259 Jarvis St.) on Sunday March 3 for an inspiring afternoon ahead of International Women’s Day, hosted by Tangerine bank.
The all-female Community Gym event was designed to empower the next generation of female basketball enthusiasts through sport and the insight of two inspiring women who represent everything that #goals embodies.
Two-time Olympian and Raptors 905 mentor coach Tamara Tatham took time from her busy schedule (she also coaches the University of Toronto women’s basketball team) to lead the girls – all between the ages of 10 and 13 – in a basketball skills training session. Tatham is the first Canadian woman to coach in the NBA’s official minor league basketball organization, G-League. Joining Tatham was Tangerine’s new Executive Vice President, President and CEO Gillian Riley.
“I’m here to help empower the young women,” said Tatham. “A lot of things that are happening today, I didn’t get when I was younger. So, it’s very important for me to see these girls have a female role model in their lives, to look up to someone who can help them and inspire them to stay on whatever path they’re on. Right now, they love basketball; I’m hoping they can continue to love playing basketball and remaining active within sport.”
In addition to dribbling and taking shots, the girls took part in wellness sessions that included an emphasis on financial health, before capping off the day with an inspirational panel discussion. The girls were eager, curious and confident, as evidenced by the dozens of hands in the air during the post-panel Q&A.
Riley – a glass-celling smasher in an industry historically dominated by men – correlated playing sports with gaining confidence and encouraged the girls to continue playing them for as long as they could. She said that one of the most important things in life – “whether you’re on a team or are the CEO of a bank or working in the community” – is to know how to lose gracefully, as it builds resiliency.
Of course, winning is great, too. “I would say the most exciting moment of my athletic career was in 2015 when I played at the Pan American games at Ryerson University,” said Tatham when asked about career highlights. “It was an international competition and we played the U.S. in the gold medal game and won our first ever gold medal. It was huge for Canadian women’s basketball – we made history that year – then, went on to win another gold medal in Edmonton. It was the highlight of my athletic career and is something I am so proud of and happy to have been be able to be part of and hopefully that inspired a lot of young girls, and I hope that inspires you as well.”
Perhaps the best moment of the day was that when Tangerine surprised the girls with tickets to the Powered by Female Fans Raptors game on March 5 against the Houston Rockets at Scotiabank Arena. Between basking in the glow of the empowering event, taking in the game and International Women’s Day on March 8, it’s likely the week won’t be one the girls will soon forget.
“It’s a huge thing,” said Tatham of International Women’s Day. “It’s about being able to celebrate women and successes. It’s all about women. It’s all about us. It’s all about the power of women in this country and this world; it’s important for us to celebrate.”
The Community Gym initiative is one example of Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment’s (MLSE) mission to use sport to help youth facing barriers reach their potential. The shiny new (the building opened its doors in 2017) 42,000-square-foot space calls itself an incubator for collaboration. The link between the MLSE Launchpad and Tangerine is a natural one: Tangerine is the official bank of the Toronto Raptors.