San Francisco Recreation and Parks celebrates Women’s History Month! Each week, we highlight some of the women who’ve made an impact on Rec and Park history.
When up to 150 girls from all over the city show up to Kezar Pavilion each time the Recreation and Park Department hosts its Taster’s Choice Girls in Sports events, program coordinator Melvina Hill can’t help but be proud.
A self-professed tomboy as a youth, the energetic Hill organizes these quarterly events that offer girls, ages 5-14, the opportunity to sample a wide variety of sports, from lacrosse and roller derby to fencing and golf. The girls pack the gymnasium and are treated to a full day of clinics and exhibitions under the tutelage of Rec and Park coaches and community partners.
These days, girls have significantly more opportunities to play sports, but there was a time when it was tough for girls to even get on the field. Hill understands the need to keep providing more opportunities for girls to get out and play.
“Our Girls in Sports programs, including these special events, our summer camps and our school year programs, offer kids a safe and fun environment to get out there and try new things,” she said. “It’s an environment where they don’t feel intimidated and they can learn valuable skills like teamwork and confidence and how to build lifelong friendships.”
Hill is a perfect fit for the program, having grown up participating in practically everything, including basketball, track and dance. Her godfather, Tom Wilson, a former professional football player for the Los Angeles Rams, Cleveland Browns and Minnesota Vikings, introduced her to golf at a young age.
“I was not a shy girl,” she said. “I played everything as a kid, and that’s why I feel so strongly about helping these young girls know that these opportunities are out there for them.” Hill says these experiences will teach the next generation of young women the value of staying active and healthy, and give them a little toughness along the way.
“When they fall down and get a little scrape, I want these girls to get up, dust themselves off and keep playing. They’re girls but they’re just as mentally tough as anyone,” she said.
Hill, who began working for the department in 1993, took over the Department’s girls athletics program in 2010. When she started, there were just 40 girls registered in girls programs. Now, she says, there are just as many at several different sites around the city, many of them with wait lists.
Along with her fellow coaches, Hill has started sports programs all over the city, including leagues, track meets, an annual Hoops Summit, camps and clinics. She also just launched a citywide 3-on-3 basketball league this week.
For more information on Rec and Park’s available classes and camps for girls, click here.