In 1997, Sherri Pegues began the fledgling Girls Basketball League in the Los Angeles area in a simple effort to provide youngsters with a place to play the game. Sixteen years later, the GBL is still going strong, and Pegues is providing young ladies with much, much more than just a place to play.
“My first motivation was simply to create an all-girl basketball league,” Pegues said. “Before we started this, there were only a few girls playing in co-rec leagues. I wanted to make sure that girls had their own forum — a place where they could always have an opportunity to play the game.”
“Probably the biggest challenge early on was finding a place to play. Back in the ’90s, there wasn’t a lot of gym space, and it was tough to sell the idea of providing the girls with an equal opportunity. The last eight to 10 years, once we had things in place, I have ben able to focus on doing what I can to keep the girls academically and athletically fit.”
GBL became a program that was about much more than basketball. They were developing outstanding young basketball players, but they were also nurturing outstanding young women.
“I think the biggest thing we provide is more of a structured pattern for their lives,” Pegues explained. “We train them on the court and academically, and we just try to stay a part of their lives as they make that difficult transition from middle school to high school.
“We want to help them find their way to that next level because a lot of girls need some help during that period of their lives. A lot of girls get lost. They get hung up when they are trying to make that transition. That especially happens to the kids who are not the Top 20 type of players. We want to make sure those kids who aren’t in the Top 20 don’t get lost in the shuffle. We are dealing with inner city kids, and some of them don’t have a clue about what they need to do.”
What started as a local youth league eventually grew into a high-profile travel program, with the GBL Lady Rebels earning national acclaim. That national recognition quickly turned into collegiate opportunities for the members of the program.
“The most rewarding part is when I watch the successful kids get into college,” Pegues said. “It’s always exciting when one of the girls gets that opportunity. I can remember when our first girls got that opportunity. That was very exciting. It meant a lot of to me, especially because the entire family was so excited. When you see an inner city kid get a scholarship that they really need, that’s an amazing accomplishment.
“It’s great to see them use the tools and actually make it. That’s what this program is about, providing these girls with an opportunity to better themselves and become quality individuals. We’re trying to develop the overall person, not just the basketball player.”