Seattle’s Team Awesome Basketball Leadership Academy (TABLA) empowers girls to find their voice on and off the court

From high school gyms around Seattle, Washington to the home floor of the Seattle Storm, Team Awesome Basketball Leadership Academy (TABLA) blends leadership skills, social justice, and of course, top-tier basketball education. Learn what makes TABLA the most awesome girls basketball camp in Seattle – and find out how to get involved for the 2019 session.

Lining the back wall of King’s High School Gym in Shoreline, Washington, handmade posters display catchy titles like “Shoot for Shoes” and “Pick n’ Role Models.” These titles belong to social advocacy programs invented by young athletes at Team Awesome Basketball Academy – TABLA for short – a basketball camp that focuses on empowering high school and middle school girls. 

TABLA is the brainchild of Bea Chang, a local basketball coach, writer, and founder of Basketball Education in Action, a Seattle non-profit that empowers girls to explore issues of leadership, gender advocacy, and social justice through the lens of basketball.

Papers line the wall of a basketball court, showcasing the work of TABLA campers. (Photo by Snap! Raise)

Like other top-tier basketball camps, TABLA drills the technical skills of the game. However, it also teaches girls how to lead their communities as well as their teams. In one jam-packed week, every girl at camp competes on the floor, studies leadership in the classroom, and works as a team to support each other through it all.

TABLA campers play a team-building activity where they attempt to pass a hula hoop from one end of a human chain to another. (Photo courtesy of Don Borin at Stop Action Photography)

The inspiration for TABLA arose from Chang’s experience playing on a Seattle-area women’s basketball team, Team Awesome, for five years. On this team, she found an atmosphere of communication and fluidity between the women that transformed her experience with the game. As a coach, Chang emphasized teaching these interpersonal skills to younger athletes and the results were conclusive. The first iteration of TABLA in 2016 was limited in its scope but proved a promising start. 

“In two days, the girls were chirping and yelling on the court, brimming with confidence," Chang recalled. TABLA has since grown to a full five days of awesomeness.

Learning to Lead

Chang developed the camp’s unique curriculum with help from several other Seattle-based women basketball coaches and guidance from University of Washington’s Center for Leadership in Athletics. TABLA’s coaching staff believes that powerful change for communities starts with empowering strong women, and this notion guides their curriculum. The camp covers basketball skills with demonstrations and drills, concluding in a five-on-five tournament at Key Arena.

A camper drives with the ball during the TABLA tournament in Key Arena. (Photo courtesy of Don Borin at Stop Action Photography)

Court time is used not only to hone basketball fundamentals, but offers campers the opportunity to practice leadership skills like communication. Through this approach, TABLA helps each girl identify her own unique leadership style. Campers are encouraged to leverage their individual strengths and gain confidence in their unique assets and experiences.

In Chang’s own words, “At the heart of TABLA is the notion that each one of us, no matter our personality, has the ability to lead.” 

Recognizing the multitude of potential leadership styles, from leading by example to motivating others, the campers learn how every player can contribute to a winning team. That’s why the foundation of TABLA is self.

A TABLA coach addresses campers. (Photo courtesy of Don Borin at Stop Action Photography)

On the first day of the TABLA camp, each girl works to identify her own strengths and leadership methods. The camp curriculum then builds on and strengthens this foundation. Campers are eventually challenged to inspire others and work together as a unified team. 

To teach these skills, the TABLA coaches go beyond merely talking about leadership, instead demonstrating practical applications, on and off the court. Girls are provided ample opportunity to practice new skills, ask questions, and apply feedback – embodying the very principle of basketball education in action.

At the heart of TABLA is the notion that each one of us, no matter our personality, has the ability to lead.

- Bea Chang, Founder of TABLA

The Power of Representation

Chang runs the day-to-day operations of the camp with help from an array of junior counselors, or JCs for short. These dynamic college athletes and recent graduates are trained to play alongside campers, model successful skills and behaviors, and share stories of life as a female college athlete. The strong relationship built between campers and JCs reinforces the themes of representation, camaraderie, and mentorship that are so central to TABLA.

Campers hone their skills on the court with a dribbling drill. (Photo courtesy of Don Borin at Stop Action Photography)

The TABLA coaching staff and JCs help teach girls to find their voice and take initiative, which not only makes them better basketball players but also more confident individuals. The curriculum is geared to help girls apply such skills off the court, especially on Community Day – the fourth day of the camp when girls display their advocacy project posters on the gym walls for parents, friends, and family members to see. 

Chang believes these projects are integral to TABLA’s unique philosophy: “Our hope is that our athletes become aware of the world and inequalities around them, which inspires them to use their platforms to effect real, positive change in their communities.”

A discussion takes place on the court during TABLA. (Photo by Snap! Raise)

In addition to TABLA, Basketball Education in Action hosts an annual 3-on-3 Jam to foster a spirit of local community and competition. The money raised in 2018 went to support TABLA camper Rowan Schaberg’s project: “Pick ‘n Role Models.” Honoring the spirit of representation at the core of the TABLA, the project aims to bring youth basketball teams in the Seattle area with limited funds to Seattle Storm and University of Washington games. 

Watching women’s basketball exposes young players to high-achieving women who were once in their shoes and have overcome similar challenges as female athletes. That’s why the epic last day of TABLA is spent at Key Arena, the home floor of the Seattle Storm. 

Chang emphasizes the importance of such experiences: “TABLA offers our campers a safe space to explore their voices and push their boundaries, with powerful role models at all levels of women’s basketball.”

Our hope is that our athletes become aware of the world and inequalities around them, which inspires them to use their platforms to effect real, positive change in their communities.

- Bea Chang, Founder of TABLA

A Legacy of Awesome

Even from TABLA’s earliest days, Chang knew the project had tapped into something special. 

One of TABLA’s first-ever stories of impact centers around Kaylee, a TABLA camper who played for the Special Olympics unified basketball team at her school. She came to TABLA in a similar state as many girls: quiet, shy, and unsure of how she would fit in. 

“We saw Kaylee transform from a timid girl who wasn't quite sure if she belonged," Chang noted, "to someone who fully embraced her strengths.”

Kaylee went on to apply the leadership skills she learned at TABLA in her role as the captain of her high school team and was even chosen to play in the 2018 Special Olympics USA Games in Seattle.

Bea Chang addresses the TABLA campers. (Photo by Snap! Raise)

Chang has even more in store for TABLA in the years to come: fine-tuning the leadership curriculum, bringing in more prominent community members to inspire young athletes, and ultimately doing even more to connect youth athletes with the women who helped pave the way before them. 

Amidst all this, Chang will see campers become counselors, and counselors become coaches – while the larger community will see girls become women who stand a little taller and speak a little louder, who support each other, who overcome challenges, who create positive change in their communities, and who inspire young girls to follow in their footsteps.

“There is still so much room for growth," Chang told Snap! Raise, "but I think the overwhelming positive feedback we got from both players and parents, as well as the transformation we saw in the girls, reaffirmed our faith that what we do here matters. We pack a lot into the week. It is a lot of work, and it is a big commitment for high school girls to make. But I truly believe that we are using the game of basketball to help young women discover the best versions of themselves. I truly believe that we are changing and inspiring lives."

Learn more about TABLA at the Basketball Education in Action website, or sign up for this year’s Seattle camp, running July 16-19, 2019. To offer a 1:3 staff-to-player ratio, TABLA is limited to 32 campers. Early bird registration starts on March 15 – sign up early for a discount and to secure a spot!

Los Angeles, CA camp details will be released soon.

Click here to find out more.

Activities matter. Learn why Snap! Raise is committed to supporting awesome community initiatives like TABLA.

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