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Girls Make Their Mark on Boys & Girls Republic Basketball League

By Anna Gardner

Two teen girls wearing uniforms and holding basketballs

Anysa Segarra’s fall basketball league wrapped up in December 2023 with her team winning the 19-and-under championship title.  She hopes that seeing results like this will encourage more girls to join the league in the future.  

Anysa, 17, and Lucille Vargas, 16, were the only two girls out of 88 players on Henry Street’s Boys & Girls Republic (BGR) basketball teams this past season. Though both girls were daunted at first by playing in a mixed-gender sports league, soon it became just another opportunity to play the sport they love. 

“I could be very stressed out, but when I play, even if it’s just for that hour or two, whatever I was thinking about before I stepped in here is gone,” says Anysa.  

Anysa knew of Boys & Girls Republic from growing up on the Lower East Side. Already an avid athlete in volleyball and baseball, she’d recently gotten into basketball with some friends when she took a risk and tried out for BGR’s league in the summer of 2023. Anysa was excited, and a little nervous, when she made the league after tryouts. “Playing with talented players was very nerve-racking,” in addition to being the only girl on the team, she says. But quickly she showed her teammates her skills, and they bonded. “The communication is there; all my teammates, they’re very friendly,” she says. “They just love to talk and laugh.” 

In 1997, Henry Street Settlement took over the historic Boys Brotherhood Republic community center on East Sixth Street and adopted the new name, Boys & Girls Republic. Since then, athletics programming has been open to young people regardless of gender, and the program has hosted all-girls basketball and volleyball leagues over the years. Since the pandemic, boys have returned to athletics at BGR in full force, but girls are just starting to come back.  

“It’s a lot of pressure when you’re a girl who plays basketball and you’re in a room full of guys . . . You’ve got to prove that ‘I deserve to be here just as well as you.’”

For Lucille, an athlete in track and swimming, playing basketball has always been a way to connect with her family. She had played in some all-girl leagues through school and was encouraged by her friend Anysa to come play in the league this past fall. “It’s a lot of pressure when you’re a girl who plays basketball and you’re in a room full of guys who are already judging you just because you’re a female,” says Lucille, “You’ve got to prove that ‘I deserve to be here just as well as you.’”  

But, once the nerves passed, she found her teammates were very welcoming. “There are a lot of strong personalities, but they put their pride to the side and pass me the ball,” she says with a laugh. Both young women agree there’s something unique about playing in a mixed gender league. “One of my favorite things about BGR is that it’s so diverse,” says Lucille. “It’s so cool that your teammates can be your bros, your homies, your girls, or whoever!” 

“Everybody here, they’re very, very open-minded,” says Anysa. “When I first started here, I was nervous a lot, but my teammates showed me, even if we lose, if we win, we still have a bond.” 

Click here to learn more about youth athletics at Henry Street Settlement and to sign up

Click here to watch a short film about BGR and its impact on the community.

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