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March/April
2024
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GIRLS’ SPORTS/BASKETBALL
Shooting Stars
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Grassroots efforts from national organizations have girls’ basketball aiming high in 2024. (Photo: Wikimedia Commons/Texas A&M University - Commerce Marketing Communications Photography)
Female hoops participation is growing and is receiving support from many quarters. For example, USA Basketball oversees a variety of initiatives aimed at increasing female participation at all levels and amplifying the women’s game.
One such effort is Women in the Game, which educates high school girls, college women and young professionals about career paths in the sports industry. The organization also offers a variety of youth clinics, camps and competitions, as well as coach education and training programs. Of course, the upcoming Paris Olympics is of great importance to USA Basketball, both from a visibility standpoint (media attention and fan excitement) as well as from a financial perspective (sponsorships, media and ad dollars).

And now, for the first time in history, USA Basketball will have four teams compete at the Olympics, including women’s 5-on-5 and 3x3. And, according to Renee Felton, of USA Basketball communications, at a grassroots level USA Basketball continues to foster participation and opportunities through programs such as Gold Camps for 6th-9th grade girls; two tournaments in the U.S. Open Basketball Championships; Women in the Game conferences to promote career development and goals for females to work in the industry; and two mentorship programs in the Women in the Game mentorship and the Torch Program.

“Our focus is both on and off the court. In terms of skill development, establishing an early affinity and positive experience in sport under the USA Basketball player development model sets girls up on an advantageous path to have fun and hopefully stay involved,” says Felton. “We want to empower players and coaches to learn and teach the game the right way.”

For most dealers, basketball is a mainstay. “Basketball is the fastest-growing and biggest sport for us,” reports Todd Gutzman, president and CEO of Home Team Sports & Apparel in Green Bay, WI. “Right now, the women’s business is steady, but it’s growing in the right direction. We’re seeing more girls’ teams buying from us.”

When it comes to uniforms, Gutzman observes, “It’s a touch-and-feel type of thing — coaches want to see samples. They’re learning that they might not need major labels because there are enough other brands that can meet budgets more easily. Gutzman is keeping an open mind about the potential influence of the Olympics. “The Games might have an impact — USA does a pretty good job of outfitting people,” he says. “I’m looking forward to the Olympics because they might generate some excitement that will perhaps translate into some new product that we can offer.”

At Hoosier Sporting Goods in Columbus, IN, owner Michael Bodart has noticed a decline in the girls’ basketball business, but he still expects to see some growth.

“There’s cyclical growth for each sport,” he remarks. “We mostly handle schools and some travel teams. We’re trying to push a lot of teams toward sublimated uniforms because they’re quicker and easier to produce and we like the turnaround that our suppliers provide. The vendors have done a good job in providing options.”

Basketball Fast Facts

• Nearly 7.5 million females participated in basketball in 2022, according to SFIA’s 2023 Basketball Single Sport Report. • In 2023, total basketball participation in the U.S. hit 29.7 million, a 5.6 percent rise from 2022 and an increase of 19.3 percent from 2019 to 2023, according to SFIA.

• In the 2022-23 season, high school girls’ basketball had 373,366 participants, making it the fourth most popular girl’s sport on the NFHS’ ranking of the Ten Most Popular Girls Programs for the 2022-23 season.

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