By Madisen Carter
When the Unlimited Potential Basketball training facility opened, cofounders Packie Turner and Bianca Turner noticed that the sessions and classes were filled with young men and not so many young women. They knew there was room for growth when it came to getting young women into the gym and interested in training, and made it a goal to increase those numbers.
One major way UPB strives to bring more girls into the training facility is hosting all-girls clinics, with some of them being free. UPB wants to expose as many girls as they can to the sport of basketball and let them get more comfortable with having a ball in their hands. Bianca said that the company has the goal to create a safe environment where girls are able to work hard, learn, try new things and make mistakes.
As the years have gone by, Bianca and Coach Packie have noticed more girls wanting to come into the gym and better their game. Oakland Tech High School’s women's basketball player Mari Somvichian has trained with Coach Packie since she was in fourth grade, and recently became a CIF State Division III girls basketball champion. Professional basketball player and the No. 1 overall pick in the 2020 WNBA Draft, Sabrina Ionescu, works out at UPB as well as 2021 NCAA Tournament Champion and two-time gold medalist, Haley Jones.
Bianca and Coach Packie took the time to answer some questions about girl’s participation in basketball, why their participation is important, how we can support women’s basketball and more:
Q: Why is it so important for UPB to push more for women’s basketball?
Bianca: “I think having that early exposure is really helpful in gaining confidence and just feeling comfortable in that kind of environment… I think it's very important for young women to play sports. We've done some research and learned how much they benefit from sports when it comes to confidence and learning hard work, dedication, teamwork, leadership, and all these amazing skills that obviously guys who feel comfortable playing sports, they're getting all this, [so] we need to encourage young women to get this as well. Especially as more women enter the workforce, especially as more women are mothers who will enter the workforce because that adds another layer of complication, and you really need a lot of confidence to be able to handle all of that. Then we need young men to see women in this environment too, so that they can respect them in that way. [Then] they can grow together and alongside each other and help encourage each other and create more of a teamwork environment as well.”
Q: What inspired the push for women’s basketball in the UPB training facility?
Coach Packie: “I don't know if anything inspired it so much as we just saw a need for it. There were a lot of young women coming in who weren't getting these opportunities for development and growth, and we wanted to provide some opportunities for them specifically. We saw a desire in young women to want to get better and want to do it around other young women… Sabrina [Ionescu] and Haley [Jones] also were with us and I think more eyes from young females [came] our way as well [from them.] So, it felt like a natural progression and the natural kind of thing to do and then you know, personally for Bianca and I, we were having a girl and now we have two, and being a father of two girls and having seen the options that are out there for young girls, [we were] wanting to do more for [the girls] to provide opportunities for them and in the future for my own."
Q: What are your main goals for the young girls who come into the gym for the all girls clinic and other events especially made for them?
Coach Packie: “I think for them to see that if this is something they love, they can pursue it and be great at it. I think there's more visibility now than ever, but still not enough in women's sports. There's not a second grader you're gonna meet that's a boy that doesn't believe he can be a professional athlete, because it's so normalized for boys to see it and to believe it, and I don't feel that's the case for women. I think it should be [that] if they want to have that dream and that goal, they should have it. Sabrina had it, and look at what [has been] able to do, right? So why can't other young girls have that same belief and that same dream and chase it? It starts with opportunity, it starts with exposure, and it starts with falling in love with the game. Our goal is just to help girls fall in love with basketball.”
Q: How can the community support women’s basketball?
Bianca: “I think one big way is watching the Women's March Madness tournament. I think a lot of people watch the men's and that's great because it's so much fun to watch but like our team is doing a Women's March Madness bracket competition so that everyone can feel invested, watch these games, support these women, talk about it, and tell their friends. I have family and friends who are now invested in Sabrina and Haley because we talk about them so much. So now they go and watch their games and then they talk about them to their friends and how well they're doing. I think the more that we can talk about it and support them, the more people's appreciation for women in sports will grow.”
Coach Packie: “Lend a hand to those closest to you. If you can, support them. Whether that means going to a game or reposting them when they're doing something that they love. You know, we should always do that for the people we love and care about. So I think we should just continue to and for athletes to uplift each other would be huge, and it would bring more eyeballs to it. I think we're starting to see that, it's starting to happen. You know, the NBA supports it. A lot of players are supporting it, going to their games, and hopefully that trend continues and it continues to grow.”
What advice can you give to women on and off the court?
Bianca: “I think on the court, put yourself in uncomfortable situations. It's okay to mess up and it's okay to mess up in front of everyone as long as you're really learning. Because at the end of the day, those people are probably going to have zero effect on your life, but the things that you're learning and the skills that you're gaining will stay with you. So just remember that and then off the court, as far as being a female in this industry, I think that just understanding everybody, no matter male or female, everybody is learning, everybody has started somewhere… [Also,] finding the right village is super important. Not giving up [and] speaking your mind [is important] because if you have good ideas, you need to speak up and say something.”
Coach Packie: “Recognize you are a human being first. You're not just a basketball player, and do not tie your self worth to your performance. If you identify as a basketball player, you might feel that when you have a bad game, you had a bad day [or] you're not good enough or something like that. I think it's about realizing it's 40 minutes of your day or an hour of your day, or at most it’s four hours of your day. When there's still 20 hours left in that day, who are you the rest of the time and be okay with that and love that person too. Find those other passions [and] other joys, and be great in them as well. It will only make that passion for basketball grow and be even greater.”
UPB will be having two all girls clinics in the month of March for 6th-12th graders. The Playmaker Clinic will be on March 22nd from 7:30-8:30 pm, and the Lights Out Shooting Clinic will be held on March 29th from 7:30-8:30 pm.
Click here to sign up for the Playmaker Clinic and the Lights Out Shooting Clinic!