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Hoop Story #028: Chiene Joy Jones, Founder Grow Our Game

Hoop Story #028: Chiene Joy Jones, Founder Grow Our Game

 

Talk about your childhood and how that shaped who you are today?

I was born and raised in a small neighborhood in Queens called Briarwood. It was a tight-knit community where everybody’s parents looked out for the neighborhood kids and there were always opportunities for extracurricular activities. 

I learned how to play the cello and trumpet, while also being a girl scout and a bonafide athlete early on. I absolutely loved playing in Hoover Park, visiting the library and also eating pizza from Alba’s. I was too busy to get into much trouble, and by the time I got home after a full day, I was completely exhausted! 

I learned early on just how powerful community was for a child’s upbringing along with the importance of extracurricular activities. 

What were some highlights of playing college ball at NYU in the early 2000s?

My highlights all came from the sisterhood formed while playing at NYU and being a part of a college community that was in and of New York City. 

Choosing NYU was deeper than staying close to home. Choosing NYU was about playing at a program that was fighting for a National Championship each and every year. Most of my teammates that went D1 played for teams that didn’t reach the level of success we had at NYU which is D3. 

Playing in the toughest conference in the country, UAA, while also building a tradition of excellence under Coach Janice Quinn was arguably one of the best times of my life. 

The experience was much bigger than the wins, or words. The experience was about life readiness and preparation to overcome real world challenges.

How was your experience building the elementary school program at Gauchos?

I would actually consider my experience with the NYC Lady Gauchos as assisting with building out their pipeline. 

The girls program historically always had one of the best high school teams in the city and maybe even the country. But there was a great deal of attention that needed to be made toward growing their middle school girls basketball programs. 

Luckily enough for me, when I came into coaching I started with a young, but hard working, 7th grade team that I had invited a few elementary-aged girls to practice with. Once that middle school group entered high school, building a team around those girls was a no-brainer. Every single one of those girls has continued on to college on full scholarships. One hundred percent! Not many coaches can claim that type of accomplishment.

How did Grow Our Game come into fruition and what are your goals w/ it in the future?

Over the years I started to notice that pay-to-play options were becoming more prevalent around the city, leaving out most kids from underserved communities.

Grow Our Game, Chiene Joy Jones

Free programs for girls at young ages simply didn’t exist. I also found the quality of coaches for girls fading, with a newfound dependence on trainers to develop. As opposed to traditionally having coaches put in the time and work to get girls better. 

So I decided to create Grow Our Game, with the goal of addressing these disparities head on.

Our mission is to empower the next generation of women leaders by reducing barriers at the earliest stages of the sports participation pipeline and building a strong foundation of social-emotional skills with the support of our community partners throughout NYC.

What makes you so passionate about building Grow Our Game? 

My passion is rooted in the confidence and strength that I see each and every one of our girls continue to build each week. 

Similar to a newborn's first year, there were a lot of teachable moments as the parent to my new nonprofit Grow Our Game, but what was more fascinating was the amazing speed at which our signature Little Ballers Girls Basketball Program grew and developed! 

Through intentional programming we were successful in serving 146 girls between the ages of 4 and 10 that represented underserved communities like Central Harlem and the South Bronx. All of this before we were turned upside down with a global pandemic. We’ve since found joy and hope with connecting in the virtual world. Whether it was virtual basketball skills training or having a special conversation with Breanna Stewart about equality and her dedicated role as an ambassador for change. Year one has been pretty special to say the least!

What do you look forward to most once this pandemic is over? 

Once the pandemic is over I look forward to holding a big Grow Our Game Family Day where our girls, families and supporters can be reunited in person to celebrate the strength of our sisterhood and community that was formed during these difficult times. 

After that, we’re back on the court and back to work because there’s a lot more work ahead for the girls of New York City!

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