As a swimmer, runner and triathlete, Beth Devine has always been an avid sportswoman, but she also loves working with children. When first out of school she spent time running children’s programs like Future Stars Basketball, Field Hockey and Day Camps, but then decided to enter the business world. Devine soon realized, however, that her life was meant to take a different direction.
“When I was in the corporate world, I knew I didn’t belong there, but I wasn’t sure what to do instead. I wanted to work with kids and to give back but I wasn’t sure how," she explained. "Then I met Councilman Jim Kenney and he put a bug in my ear to consider creating a nonprofit for kids in the city.”
In 2009 while running fitness programs for two schools in the suburbs of Philadelphia, she teamed up with others to run a large basketball clinic in South Philadelphia and that is where she met Kenney.
From a random assortment of meetings, her vision of a nonprofit that engages girls (age 8-14) and their families in activities that encourage fitness and good nutrition took form and Philly Girls in Motion was born in 2010. Devine and her team of volunteers deliver these programs through the City of Philadelphia’s Recreation Centers as well as certain schools.
“Our mission is to engage girls in healthy, positive, active activities to give them a chance to move their bodies, and engage their families when appropriate. We use sports and fitness to do that, to get them moving,” Devine said.
“The bigger goal though is to give them opportunities. I have a lot of nieces who have sports and camps on every corner out in the suburbs but the same opportunities don’t exist in the city. Just because they were born in 19148 doesn’t mean they shouldn’t have the same access.”
“We want to give them the gift of movement,” she added.
Devine works closely with a team of volunteers including teachers, nutritionists, personal trainers and fitness professionals. Philly Girls in Motion has also partnered with the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP) and their Healthy Weight Program to bring their girls a Healthy Habits Workshop once a week. These workshops offer activities and games that reinforce healthy eating like the effects of sugary drinks, the importance of breakfast and fun ways to get your daily fruits and vegetables.
Rec Center Fitness Programs
In the fall and the spring, Philly Girls in Motion offers 8-week fitness programs at Guerin Rec Center in South Philadelphia, and Simons Rec Center in Germantown. The programs are usually held twice a week for an hour and include strength/general fitness classes, group exercise classes like yoga, Zumba, cardio kickboxing, boot camp and Martial Arts. Devine hopes to offer more winter programming as well. A four week yoga clinic is already in the works.
After School Clubs
Philly Girls in Motion also runs an after school fitness and sports club at St. Thomas Aquinas Mission School which is only open to girls in the school in grades 3 through 8.
“This is the first ever after school club at Thomas Aquinas and now interest is really growing. The school is part of 15 school network so there is a huge potential for growth,” Devine said.
“We want to expose the girls to strength, sport and a group exercise so they realize that they don’t have to be a jock to enjoy these programs.”
Besides encouraging general fitness and nutrition, Devine also wants to foster young girls’ love of sports. She started to notice that certain sports like lacrosse, rowing and rugby were not readily available in the city like it was in the suburbs and wanted to rectify that. Philly Girls in Motion now runs its own instructional lacrosse leagues supported by the Women’s Sports Foundation.
The lacrosse program works out of the Edward O’Malley Athletic Association (EOM) in Pennsport, South Philadelphia. Drexel University’s Women’s Lacrosse Team has put on clinics there for the Philly Girls in the past, and currently Devine is scheduling winter clinics for Thursday evenings in January where the girls will learn stick work, positioning, defense and the rules of the sport. La Salle, Villanova and Drexel women’s lacrosse teams are already on board to participate.
“We didn’t have games before, but this year we have enough girls to build a couple of teams to play some suburban teams. We play on the outfield of a baseball field unlike in the suburbs where they have proper lacrosse fields,” she said.
“This shows that if you have the space and the equipment then you can do it. We hope to build a true club; the girls are really trying to build some skills.”
The league utilizes the GoGirlGo! Curriculum to offer a workshop after league play to discuss topics such as healthy habits, positive body image, and confidence. The girls are encouraged to discuss and journal about these topics each week.
Philly Girls in Motion also holds clinics with the Philadelphia Women’s Rugby Football Club at the EOM. The winter clinics will be held in February.
“It so much fun for the little girls to see older girls in action and see that they can do it too,” Devine explained. “We have so many female athletes in the city that it is crazy not to engage them. We want our girls to see them in action, to see what it is like to be a college athlete.”
See Chicks Run
Beside female college athletes, Devine looks for support from all local women athletes including the Philadelphia running community. Every June, she holds a women’s 5k/10K, See Chicks Run on Forbidden Drive in Fairmount Park to raise money for Philly Girls in Motion. The 2015 event will be expanded into a 5 race series with different themes and different heats. She also hopes to organize a half marathon in August.
When asked why she wanted to focus on programs just for girls, Devine said that something Councilman Kenney said to her really stuck with her and keeps her motivated to stay on her current path. Kenney told her, “Boys already have access to sports while girls are always the last to get access, and the last to get on the field. I like what you are doing.”
She also explained that by just working with girls it gives them the opportunity to focus on girls’ stuff like body image that you couldn’t do in co-ed class.
Philly Girls in Motion is always looking for new volunteers from all walks of life. Contact Devine if you are interested in volunteering.
Read more Sports Doc for Sports Medicine and Fitness.