I am very proud of the group of talented women out of Toronto Canada, who accepted the challenge of becoming pioneers for women's professional basketball in Canada. Although the Women's Basketball Development Association is North America's largest semi-professional league with 40 teams across the United States, the Toronto Lady Elite 1's inaugural exhibition season in the WBDA began with little fanfare. First thought for why the Toronto Lady Elite 1's launch went under the radar may be because all of Canada (seems like the world) is captivated by the success of the Toronto Raptors. The country's only NBA team is enjoying their own historic season making their first appearance in NBA Finals, leaving very little room for other Canadian teams to shine.
In reality, women's basketball is only beginning to scratch the surface of receiving the support necessary to build something of their own that would be considered comparable to what the men are getting. Truth is the return of the Toronto Lady Elite 1's women's semi professional team was met with the same lacklustre support it received almost 10 years ago from the basketball community. What is most unfortunate is that even the female ballers themselves, haven't bought in to the importance of supporting women's basketball initiatives at the professional level. Just look at the challenges the WNBA has in filling seats.
In an era when everyone is looking for quick returns and immediate gratification, finding a group of women willing to commit to the process of building new opportunities for women's sports is very difficult. I often have to remind young female ballers that are aspiring to be professionals to be very realistic and aware of the importance of supporting women's professional basketball initiatives and players. If not, one day they too may be looking for professional opportunities and wishing they could receive support from the community and corporations.
I also caution women to be leery of larger organizations that run women's events and programs as a checkmark for their equity box. While also being aware of organizations whose main focus is serving men's basketball and pull some of the top figures in women's basketball into the mens arena. This is a double edged sword that elevates individual women but depletes the talented women that could be builders of initiatives that best serves all women.
Thank you to Head Coach Allana Arundell and Assistant Coach Nambogga Sewali for committing their own time and talents to build what will go down in history as the flagship women's professional development team in the WBDA.
Thank you to P.H.A.S.E. 1's Nina Hinds, Director of both the Phoenix Lady Elite 1's and Toronto Lady Elite 1's for helping to create opportunities for women like Allana and Nambogga to gain experience coaching at a higher level. While also giving more women an opportunity to use their talent to travel and represent their respective cities and countries, playing a game they have worked passionately at their whole lives.
Finally, thank you to the WBDA for being leaders in trying to move the women's game forward and creating a platform for women to inspire others with their talent.
For more information and how you can support the growth of women's basketball at the professional level, visit the websites below. Also, whenever possible give your support to existing women's players and teams at the professional level. www.wbdapro.com www.ladyelite1s.com