The girls filed into the gym and down the stairs towards the court inside the Chastain Park Gym. Early Monday morning the Atlanta Hawks Basketball Academy hosted a Lady Ballers clinic which began with some introductions and defensive drills. The sounds of sneakers squeaking filled the gym while parents, grandparents and little brothers, sisters and cousins looked on from the bleachers.

Atlanta Public Schools is on fall break this week and the Atlanta Hawks used that time to help young ball players get better with their games and the things that surround the game.

The focus of the clinic is to help young female players improve every aspect of the game, but the promotion of teamwork and being comfortable on the court is a big reason for the clinic, said Atlanta Hawks Vice President of Community Impact and Basketball Programs Jon Babul. “This is what it’s all about, getting young ladies together in a gym with female coaches.”

Lady Ballers campers, ages 8-15, went through drills early Monday morning inside the Chastain Park gym. Photo by Donnell Suggs/The Atlanta Voice

There were more than 50 lady ballers, ages 8-15, participating in the clinic Monday. Babul, a former Georgia Tech Yellow Jacket and all-state high school player from Massachusetts, believes the clinic does more than make the participants better basketball players.

“It’s the confidence they get from camps like this,” said Babul as he looked on from the sideline. “If your mind is right your body will follow.”

Players began with stretches and foot and defensive drills before breaking off into smaller groups based on age. There was a lady baller with Special Olympics experience that also participated.

A two-hour Jr. Hawks clinic was also scheduled for that afternoon.

The two camps are ways the Hawks are continuing to reach out to fans and non-fans alike, says Babul.

“We are trying to build these organic touch points within the community,” he said of the various clinics, basketball camps and community-focussed events the organization hosts year round. “I recognize a lot of these kids from our summer camp.”

Born and raised in Brooklyn, New York, Donnell began his career covering sports and news in Atlanta nearly two decades ago. Since then he has written for Atlanta Business Chronicle, The Southern Cross...