By Melissa D'Amico, Assistant Coach, Yale Women's Basketball

When college coaches are on the road recruiting, we talk about a lot of different things while on the sideline watching games. Sometimes just catching up with friends about how life is going, sometimes about the craziness of our travel schedules, and sometimes we even talk about basketball. Go figure. Two years ago there was a much more meaningful conversation, one that would manifest into the reality that is Play BOLD.

From that moment until now our board of directors, which is also comprised of a few of my fellow colleagues in the coaching world, has been working to create a platform for collegiate women’s basketball players to give back, in a big way. Through mission and humanitarian aid work, we have created a vehicle for change in the form of a non-profit.

This year, life ended up bringing us all the way to Eldoret, Kenya. What was special about this trip, aside from being our first as an organization, was that the Ivy League women showed up big. Out of the 16 people in our travel party, 11 were student-athletes. Out of those 11, five were from the Ivy League.

You get the chance to recruit these players, and usually you can find that Ivy League schools are recruiting the same players on a consistent basis. So even if a player doesn’t end up on your team, you get to know them, their families, their goals and aspirations. How amazing life works to bring these people back around on a whole other level.

To watch foes on the court who battle against each other become humble servants together for a greater cause. To watch them hold a small child who has been born into some dire circumstances and witness the smile that suddenly covers that child’s face. To watch them teach the game of basketball with renewed purpose; as someone’s escape from a life of being trafficked, abandoned, or led to the streets and drug addiction. Most of whom have never even seen the game played, but you could tell by their laughter that they weren’t thinking about all the other stuff going on in their lives at that moment in time.

Sometimes these lessons were taught on grass courts with no nets. And more than sometimes the pupils had no shoes on. You have two choices in these situations; make the most of what you have, or don’t. You’d be surprised what you can create out of pure love for the game and the people around you.

The girls who represented the Ivy League from Yale, Brown, and Penn exemplify the true definition of what a student-athlete in this conference embodies. A scholar, a competitor, and a humanitarian. They have all left their mark on this world and will no doubt continue to do so throughout their college careers. Alexandra Maund, McKenna Dale, Melissa Heath, Dominique Leonidas, and Eleah Parker should be names at the top of everyone’s watch list, for so many reasons. And we can’t wait to get back on the recruiting trail to spark some new conversations about all they have done for our game and for others.

Play BOLD is a non-profit organization dedicated to empowering communities by mobilizing people and resources on international missions to the most disadvantaged areas of the world. To learn more visit http://playbold.org/.


Melissa D'Amico

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