Junior Girls Olympics

Events for the Junior Girls Olympics will be held over three weekends in the Charleston area.

Here is a schedule of events:

Sept. 7: Olympics Preliminaries, Arthur W. Christopher Community Center, Charleston.

Sept. 8: Olympics Preliminaries, Charleston Tennis Center and W.L. Stephens Swim Center, Charleston.

Sept. 14: Pump It Up Rally, Pierce Park Pavilion, Daniel Island.

Sept. 21: Olympics Finals, Bishop England High School, Daniel Island.

Sept. 22: Olympics Finals, Bishop England High School and Family Circle Stadium, Daniel Island.

Sports categories: basketball, cheerleading/gymnastics, soccer, swimming, tennis, track, volleyball, golf, jump rope.

At preliminaries, 30 girls will be selected per sport for the Olympics Finals. All in the preliminaries will be able to participate in noncompetitive events (opening and closing ceremonies, cheerleading, golf and jump rope) in the finals.

The program is for girls ages 6-12.

To sign up a girl, go to www.juniorgirlsdayout.org.

To volunteer, email Kathy Jackson at JGDO2007@yahoo.com.

Partners and supporters in the programming include Bishop England, Charleston Battery, cities of Charleston and North Charleston, C3 Cheer & Dance, DAE Foundation, Daniel Island Community Association, Daniel Island Women’s Network, Family Circle Cup, First Tee of Greater Charleston, Georgia State University, I’On Club, Johns Island Waterproof Swimming, James Island Community Education, Juice Plus, MVP Volleyball Club, Porter Gaud School, Sea Islands Chamber of Commerce, The Foot Store, Totally Fit, Trader Joe’s and Wild Olive Restaurant.

A little more than a year ago, Kathy Jackson was watching the London Olympics and was awestruck by the stories of individual athletes, many of whom overcame obstacles and showed dogged determination in reaching the games.

Jackson, founder and director of the all-volunteer Junior Girls Day Out Community Project, came up with a lofty idea.

“I thought we needed to have our own Olympics, right here in Charleston,” says Jackson, whose Junior Girls program already has created more than 20 programs designed to develop skills in girls, ages 6 to 12, to have well-rounded, successful lives.

In March, she and four other volunteers started hatching plans, meeting weekly for three months and contacting every sports expert and local facility they could think of. They held an “Olympics Launch Party” on June 30.

Since then, 200 girls have participated in sports clinics and “enrichment fun days” geared toward competitions in September, including Olympic preliminaries on Sept. 7 and 8 and a finale on Sept. 21 and 22. The finals will be held at Bishop England High School and Family Circle Stadium on Daniel Island.

The “games” are actually skill competitions, three in each sport, with the idea that those that display talent and an interest can be referred to a recreation or competitive team or program near a girl’s home within the greater Charleston area, according to soccer coach Tamara Vandiver.

“It’s important to expose girls to these skills that they may not have had the chance to try,” says Vandiver, a veteran soccer player and coach for Cainhoy Athletic Soccer Club’s U-10 girls Dynamite team.

Girls can sign up for the preliminaries at www.juniorgirlsdayout.org. And, as with all Junior Girls programs, there are no requirements for race, income levels or residence.

“A girl is a girl is a girl,” she says in a mantra-like fashion.

Jackson says participation in previous clinics are not necessary and hopes to draw 500 girls to the preliminaries. Those who don’t qualify for the finals will still be able to participate in opening and closing ceremonies, cheerleading, golf and jump rope.

“We’re really pushing enrichment more than competition,” says Jackson.

Why sports?

While many Junior Girls Day Out programs are not sports-related, Jackson knows the power of sports. And the research connecting sports participation with success in life is building.

Research shows the sports participant is associated with higher self-esteem, lower obesity and teenage pregnancy rates, reduced drug use and sexual activity and better grades and higher rates of success in education.

The latest study, released by the accounting firm Ernst & Young, coincides with the 41st anniversary of Title IX, a comprehensive federal law that prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex in any federally funded education program or activity. The study connects participation in high school and college sports with becoming a business executive.

The study found that 90 percent of executives surveyed had played sports either at primary and secondary school, or during university or other tertiary education, with this proportion rising to 96 percent among “C-suite” female executives. (C-suite refers to top-level positions, such as chief executive officer, chief operations officer and chief financial officer.)

The respondents included 821 senior managers and executives, 40 percent of whom were female, who work at companies with annual revenues in excess of $250 million from 15 different countries.

Just having fun

Becoming a chief executive officer is far from the minds of most of the girls, the oldest being 12. Most just want to have fun on both field and court.

Springfield Elementary fifth-grader Brandi Davis, who is 11, heard about the Junior Girls Olympics when she was at the mall for a gymnastics exhibition. She wanted not only to do gymnastics but test out soccer, tennis, swimming and cheerleading.

Haut Gap Middle School sixth-grader Ashanti Singleton has participated in Junior Girls programs before, including taking a trip to Savannah, and is looking forward to competing in swimming, gymnastics, tennis, soccer, volleyball and cheerleading.

Jackson, who is not paid for her work with Junior Girls, feels a deep commitment to helping girls, inspired partly by her second cousin, Coretta Scott King.

“There is just so much going on with young people these days. Young people are challenged so much. We have to come up with creative ideas to inspire and engage them ... We’re always thinking of something new and exciting to do.

“We (she and others who help with the program) want to educate, encourage and inspire girls. Athletics is just one of the avenues for us to get there.”

Reach David Quick at 937-5516 or dquick@postandcourier.com.