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May 03, 2019

Philly nonprofit aims to empower girls through exercise

Philly Girls in Motion offers fitness programs, sports clubs

Nonprofits Children's Health
Philly Girls in Motion Nonprofit program Courtesy/Philly Girls in Motion

Philly Girls in Motion aims to boost fitness levels among city girls by expanding access to free and low-cost athletic and fitness programs. The nonprofit offers sports clubs at several South Philadelphia community centers where girls learn to play basketball, volleyball, rugby and lacrosse.

Only about 15 percent of Philadelphia girls are getting the recommended levels of physical activity. And nearly 30 percent aren't getting any physical activity at all.

Additionally, girls are less active than boys by about 20 percent. They have significantly lower levels of cardio fitness and hand-eye coordination. And they display lower levels of competence in physical education classes.

Philly Girls in Motion, a nonprofit launched nine years ago, is working to improve those statistics by expanding free and low-cost athletic opportunities to girls ages 8 to 14.

Here's more about the organization:


Mission: Philly Girls in Motion helps girls develop critical social skills, including self awareness and confidence, through sports and fitness programs located throughout the city.

"Most people don't know it, but girls in the city have very minimal access to fitness in comparison to their male counterparts and their suburban female counterparts," executive director Jillian Green said.

  • Every month, PhillyVoice highlights the efforts of a non-profit organization in the Philadelphia region that is working to improve people's lives. We're hoping that by sharing their stories, you may want to help.
  • MAY: Philly Girls in Motion
  • Consider serving as a fitness instructor or assisting at a fundraiser
  • Make a financial donation to help the program grow

The nonprofit offers three types of programming – after-school fitness programs, community-based sports clubs and athletic clinics held in partnership with collegiate teams.

The fitness programs operate at nine schools throughout the city, each meeting twice a week for an hour-long session with certified professionals. Activities range from yoga to martial arts. The curriculum emphasizes building healthy body image and development of social and emotional skills.

The community-based sports clubs operate at several community centers in South Philadelphia. High-level coaches provide instruction primarily on four rotating sports – lacrosse, basketball, volleyball and rugby.

The athletic clinics are run by NCAA Division I teams, allowing girls to envision greater opportunities. After the clinic, the girls receive free tickets to watch the teams play.

"Girls have the opportunity to interact with Division I female athletes," Green said. That "is really essential to teaching them about the pathways that are available to them."

The programming is offered free of charge or for $20 or less, Green said. Plus, scholarships are available for interested children whose families cannot afford the programs.

Impact: Launched in 2010, Philly Girls in Motion has expanded from serving 50 girls at one community center to serving more than 700 girls each year at multiple sites. It has delivered after-school programming at five schools in low-income neighborhoods and partnered with 20 college and high school teams to provide coaching.

"Even though our program is introductory in a lot of sports, they're receiving high-quality coaching that they wouldn't experience unless they were years into their sports," Green said. "It's a really unique opportunity in that sort of way."

Philly Girls in Motion participants receive four times the amount of physical activity programming compared to the average Philadelphia girl. In all, they have completed more than 15,000 hours of physical activity.

About 62 percent of participants have increased the number of days that they exercise each week – averaging two additional days. Even more – about 82 percent – have achieved a goal they set at the beginning of a program.

In the future, the organization hopes to expand its community-based sports clubs to the north side of the city.

"We are working to build up the funding, build the relationships and break into those spaces to expand the program," Green said.

How to volunteer: Philly Girls in Motion welcomes volunteers wishing to serve in a variety of fashions. People can volunteer at the organization's annual fundraising 5K event or serve as an instructor for a sports or fitness program. 

Additionally, they can join the organization's junior board, a group focused on growing the organization's network and fundraising and marketing efforts.

"We are a one-woman show. I'm the only staff member," Green said. "Any volunteer with skill sets – we will find a way to utilize their goodwill."

Interested volunteers can contact Green via email.

How to participate: Girls ages 8 to 14 – from any Philadelphia school – can join one of the sports programs being held in South Philly. The after-school fitness programs are offered to girls who are students at the host schools.

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