Qatar Foundation and the NBA held a panel discussion Friday, titled 'Her Time to Play', at Education City aimed at fostering female empowerment through sports. The event featured Sylvia Fowles, a two-time WNBA champion, 2017 WNBA MVP, and an eight-time WNBA All-Star; Dawn Smyth, NBA Head of Head of International Youth Development; and Amal al-Keldi, Technical Affairs Coordinator at the Qatar Basketball Federation.

Dozens of budding female basketball players, coaches, and trainers gathered for the talk, which explored topics about self-confidence, teamwork, and inspiration in sports. According to the organisers, the 'Her Time to Play' initiative, spearheaded by the NBA and WNBA, underlines a commitment to providing girls and women with opportunities to engage in basketball and pursue careers in coaching and athletic leadership.

Sharing her insights and personal journey, Fowles credited her mother as her greatest inspiration, saying: “I really wasn’t into basketball, it took me to get into high school to appreciate the game and really have good coaches, but if I had to choose one person who really inspired me, that will have to be my mom, she is my biggest fan.”

Al-Keldi, expressing her enthusiasm for the initiative, stressed its potential to instill invaluable life lessons in young athletes, both on and off the court. “This initiative can help the girls learn values not only on the court but also off the court,” she told 'Gulf Times' on the sidelines of the event, highlighting the importance of confidence and teamwork in shaping future leaders.

Smyth, meanwhile, echoed sentiments of empowerment, drawing parallels between her own experiences and the aspirations of the young athletes in attendance. “We operate in hundreds of countries around the world and get to work with young and inspiring women like you,” she said, citing the global impact of initiatives promoting female participation in sports.

About the significance of teamwork in basketball and its impact on broader life experiences, Fowles underscored the transformative power of collaboration, saying: “The more we understand each other and help each other out, the outcome is always better.

“When you can do things in a group, you learn these certain skills that do translate over and realised it. For me it was travelling overseas, fly to different countries, meeting new people, try new food, and basketball did that, without basketball I don’t think I have those opportunities,” she said, noting the profound life lessons learned through the sport.

About navigating the challenges of balancing athletic pursuits with academic responsibilities, Fowles offered encouragement to aspiring athletes, highlighting the importance of time management and prioritisation.

“If this is something that you are passionate about, something that you want to see flourish, of course, this is something that you have to put time into,” she pointed out.

About developing self-confidence, Smyth cited the value of confronting diverse challenges, embracing occasional setbacks, and the importance of resilience. She urged them to navigate discomfort by exposing themselves to new experiences, whether in unfamiliar countries, with different people or through trying new sports.

“You might have a big challenge and you might fail, but the next morning you get up and you work hard and you do something to make a change, and the more time you do that the more confidence you have to lead yourself through these challenges, and I think that is important. The more time you try that, the easier it gets,” she said.
Related Story