Softball star Natasha Watley is on a mission to empower the youth through sports. According to the Los Angeles Sentinel she has been hosting a youth softball league to provide mentorship for young girls that are from South L.A.
The Natasha Watley Softball League—which has been in existence for over a decade—is supported by the Los Angeles Department of Parks and Recreation. Its an 8-week free softball program for girls between the ages of 8 and 15. This year, the initiative is serving 126 girls from underserved communities. The organizers say their mission is to teach girls about leadership and health and inspire them to join the softball teams at their schools.
For Watley—a UCLA alum who helped the USA Softball Women’s National Team win a gold medal during the 2004 Olympics—it’s all about representation. She wanted to ensure Black and brown girls were exposed to softball at a young age and hopes to use her program to increase representation within the sport. “We started the league to give opportunities to young girls in LA to learn how to play softball,” Watley said in a statement, according to the news outlet. “Most of them, when they start, they’ve never even heard of softball so we’re teaching them the game. Through that we hope that they also learn about teamwork, commitment, and dedication.”
There are several efforts being made to diversify softball and baseball. In May, Black College Sports Group 360 launched the HBCU World Series as an avenue to spread awareness about baseball programs at HBCUs and increase racial diversity within the sport. “We want to utilize these events to promote educational opportunities to urban youth who in some cases may not even know schools with the history of a North Carolina A&T State University or a Southern University even exists,” said Black College Sports Group 360 founder Erwin Prentiss Hill. “These oftentimes may be first-generation college prospects. They have good grades and good GPAs. They just do not have an understanding from a previous generation of what it takes to navigate that process.”