Halifax basketball coach teaches girls lessons about the game and racial justice
HALIFAX -- In the aftermath of the killings of Breonna Taylor, George Floyd and other Black citizens in the U.S., a Halifax basketball coach is using her position to teach players important lessons on and off the court.
Lezlie States coaches young women at the Maritime Elite Girls Basketball Academy in Halifax. At her practices, she leads everything from dribbling to shooting drills. But that’s not all.
After a few of her players came to her with questions about the death of Taylor, a 26-year-old Black medical worker who was shot by police in her Kentucky apartment, States decided to start offering lessons on racism and social justice.
“For the girls to approach and say they wanted to have a space to talk and they needed to talk, it was very easy for us to make something like that happen,” she explained to CTV News’ Todd Battis.
Now States’ practices pivot from running drills to information sessions, which include guest speakers who talk about the social change that’s happening around them.
“To talk about what social injustice and racism means for athletes, for Black athletes, and how you’re expected to still perform everyday on the court, on the field, while also being impacted by social injustice around you everyday,” States said.
It’s an important topic for States who faced discrimination, along with her four brothers, when they were young athletes growing up. Despite those trials, she credits her father for encouraging them to find strength through sport.
“He never ever let mom take sports from us if we were ever being penalized. She could take everything else, but she wasn’t allowed to take our sports,” she said.
States’ passion for the game of basketball and for the people she coaches has earned her the trust of her young players.
“[It] doesn’t matter the colour of your skin. If you want to play on a team and want a second family to play with, coach Lez is always there for you,” player Sasha Neil-Dabb said.
Another player, Emily Smith-Huphman, is also in agreement, so much so that she’s willing to drive from another part of the province three times a week just to attend States’ practices.
“I just heard it was an amazing program because my grandmother works with people who had kids on the team,” she said.
And while she’s still dedicated to perfecting the finer points of the game, States’ additional life lessons will help her girls excel even when they’re not on the court.