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Starting Block

What's your Starting Block? Maybe it's a pact with a friend to get in shape, maybe it's a mom who took you to softball practice every day or a coach who saw more in you than you saw in yourself. But one thing's for sure, we all, every one of us, had a starting block–a person, or maybe an event that vaulted us into our love for sport and fitness.

Title Nine's Starting Block is our way of making sure that we continue to create little starting blocks everyday for at-risk girls in our community. We provide funds for small grassroots organizations that are good at getting these girls off the sidelines and onto the fields.

Within Starting Block we have 4 programs: The grant-making program is called Starting Block Grants. We also have the Bra Brigade, Poster Girls and Lift Certificates. Read on to find out more.

Starting Block Grants

This is our signature grant-making program. The purpose is to fund fledgling, local organizations that help at-risk girls get involved and stay involved in sports.

Past Recipients

Undercurrent

The Oakland Undercurrent Swim Team is part of the Oakland Community Pools Project, a nonprofit that provides aquatic programs to the youth of Oakland. They take non-swimmers and lead them, at their own pace, through every level of proficiency. The life-skills they learn in the water help them realize their potential in and out of the water.

As Martha, an alumna of the program puts it: "The Undercurrent swim program raised me in regards to swimming, self-development, self-esteem, self-improvement, self-growth etc. They opened many doors for me like job opportunities and education opportunities. I began at the age of fifteen as a non-swimmer...[they] worked very patiently with me bringing me up from a Jr. Varsity swimmer/non-swimmer my freshmen year in High school, to a Varstiy swimmer the following High School season. How awesome is that?"

For more about these great kids, check out http://www.oaklandswimming.org.

Albany Berkeley Girls Softball League

The ABGSL plays just a softball's throw away from Title Nine headquarters, and these girls have got some game! The league itself was started 23 years ago by a handful of families and has grown to include over two dozen teams. The league's founding principles are the perfect anti-dote to today's hyper-specialization of youth sports.

  • The first principle is sound basic skill development and active participation for all girls, regardless of experience.
  • The second is having fun, so that girls (and their families) have a good time and look forward to the practices and games.

ABGSL makes sure that every girl gets a chance to play. There are special rotation rules that allow each girl to play often and in a variety of positions. No bench warming here! At the same time, coaches focus on disciplined learning so that everyone learns to play well. Once they've mastered the basics, any girl who wants to prepare for high school or more competitive softball can choose to specialize in several positions. Now that's serious fun.

Learn more at http://abgsl.org

How to Apply: Rules of the Grant

Rule #1: Show us your passion and demonstrate your ability. If you don't know what this means, you shouldn't be applying.
Rule #2: The purpose of your program must be to get at-risk girls involved in sports and fitness.
Rule #3: Your program must be a 501(c)3 in the early stages of operation. Most of our grants range between $2000 and $5000. We give 'em to folks who show that they can do a lot with a little.
Rule #4: You gotta email us at to startingblock@titlenine.com with your idea. We prefer short, 1-pagers, so don't waste your precious time putting together a fancy proposal.
Strike 1: Please don't call us or send us your letter via snail mail.
Strike 2: We do not fund co-ed programs, national programs or programs already thriving through other donors.
You're Out: Do not send us a form letter or proposal. We won't even read 'em.

Bra Brigade

Anyone who wears a sports bra understands what a huge difference it can make. Unfortunately, a lot of girls out there haven't had that opportunity. Enter the Bra Brigade, which supports (literally!) at-risk girls by providing them with sports bras from Title Nine. Quality bras mean more than just comfort. They mean better focus and performance, eyes on the ball and minds in the game.

Past Recipients

Lift for Life Academy

It used to be that Lift for Life Academy was a St. Louis charter school of last resort—a place for kids who had fallen through the cracks, were reading below their grade level, or had learning disabilities. Today parents choose to send their kids there because of its creative and motivating approach to education. It's also a unique charter school because it's governed by a volunteer Board of Directors made up of community leaders—not by a for-profit management company.Every dollar of funding they receive stays at the school.

Which is why, when basketball coach Shanell Lightfoot contacted us, we listened. I plan to do all that I can to prepare these girls for some real basketball training," she told us. "Having a comfortable, properly fitting bra is the start! Please help me as I work to build a program of strong girls!"

We were happy to help out with enough sports bras for their entire varsity team.

You can meet the folks at Lift for Life at http://www.liftforlifeacademy.org

Lane Middle School and Girls on the Run

Danelle Chapman works hard for her girls. She's the school counselor at Lane Middle School in Portland, Oregon. She's been there for six years and says "our students and families face many barriers to success: poverty, violence, mental illness, homelessness, and the stigma of being a 'poor school' in a neglected neighborhood." Like most kids, though, the girls at LMS are resilient and just need a boost to start them on healthy, active lifestyles.

Danelle has partnered with Girls on the Run, a local experiential learning program that trains third through fifth graders for long-distance runs, through "self-esteem enhancing, uplifting workouts." The goal, they say, "is to reduce the potential display of at-risk activities among its preteen participants...fewer adolescent pregnancies and eating disorders, less depression and suicide attempts, as well as fewer substance/alcohol abuse problems and confrontations with the juvenile justice system." Together, Lane and GOTR will provide a free program encouraging fitness and wellness among middle school girls.

To ease the transition, Danielle told us, "I would be thrilled to be able to provide them with sports bras so those self-conscious girls can feel confident and comfortable as they train for a 5K road race." We're happy to oblige!

Meet the girls (and their grown-ups) at http://www.pps.k12.or.us/schools/lane/160.htm and http://www.girlsontherunpdx.org.

How to Apply: Rules of the Game

Rule #1: Show us your passion and demonstrate your ability. If you don't know what this means, you shouldn't be applying.
Rule #2: Your program must have at least 40% girls.
Rule #3: Your program must be a 501(c)3.
Rule #4: You gotta email us at startingblock@titlenine.com. We prefer short, 1-page letters, so don't waste your precious time putting together a fancy proposal.

Poster Girls

Maybe you've got a classroom, a gym or a weight room which could use a few more images of women, of the clothed and competent kind, on the walls. That's where our Poster Girl program comes in. It's designed to get our older retail posters out of the stores and into locker rooms and gyms.

As you look through our catalog or browse our website or retail stores, chances are you'll notice our "model" photography. Shots of real women, with real bodies, being real athletes. These women are our friends, and friends of friends, ordinary women doing extraordinary things. They are our kind of Poster Girl and we'd love to share them with you.

Our posters have found homes in elementary schools, middle schools, and high schools across the country. Some of our latest recipients have been: Johnson Elementary School in Johnson, VT, Jackson Middle School in Albuquerque, NM, and North Shore Technical High School in Middleton, MA. We would love to send a poster to inspire the girls at your school too.

How to Apply

We have a limited quantity of posters so we give preference to schools and rec centers–and it's first come, first served. Just contact your local Title Nine retail store or email startingblock@titlenine.com. Tell us what you'll use them for and how many you'd like to have.

Lift Certificate

A Lift Certificate is our way of giving a big high five to the unique and quirky ways our customers find their own starting blocks. The stories we hear from our customers are always amazing: The fifty-year-old soccer mom who took up soccer as her own sport; the gal who quit smoking and started walking her way through long-distance races; tales of illness and recovery and eventual triumph.

Every now and then we respond to a story with a Lift Certificate good for T9 gear and garb. It's our small token of admiration and support. And it's one way we say thanks to the women who remind us why we're in this business in the first place.

Past Recipients

Lorraine Weinmann (Grandma)

http://sjirunladiesrun.blogspot.com

How to Apply

There's not much of a system to this program. It's just that, every once in awhile, we come across a story that deserves a pat on the back. In these cases, we may hook you up with gear and garb or send you a Lift Certificate good for merchandise at any of our T9 locations.

So if you want to let us know about a luminous lady, keep in mind:

  • Unique and quirky is good.
  • AIDS Rides, Team in Training and other cause-related events are all wonderful, but are not within the scope of our Starting Block mission.

When you're all set, contact us at startingblock@titlenine.com and the folks here will get back to you.

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