Building a team on and off the court
When Cristina Siepel started the Alcott High School girls' basketball team in Chicago five years ago, she had a roster of seven eager young players and not much else. Not even a full-length home court to call their own. To build her fledgling program, Coach Siepel had to practice the same hustle off the court that she preached on it.
She singlehandedly initiated fundraising efforts to provide uniforms, patchwork equipment and transportation fees to travel to each game. And it’s paid off. Since she began, her roster has expanded from seven to 26, including a new JV team.
Her most effective fundraising technique?
“Usually buttering up my friends and family,” according to Cristina. “Before each season starts, everybody I know, whether it’s been a co-worker, a parent, or a friend, has contributed to the team in some way and it’s just been really humbling.”
Among her trusted roster of regular contributors is J-Ann Tio, the Director of Carrier Sales and Operations at Coyote Logistics and a close friend.
“Cristina brings up the girls pretty much every time you see her. She’s a proud mama!” J-Ann says. “She does a lot of events outside of practice, where she’ll try to get sponsors and donations so that the team can continue to stay together and build on this leadership mentality. When you bring up the girls to Cristina, there’s an instant smile on her face.”
It was this admiration for Cristina’s commitment to build a team and invest in the growth and development of her players that inspired J-Ann to ask UPS for an assist and help the Alcott girls' team for their upcoming season.
“Cristina’s adamant about the idea that any girl who wants to play should never be ineligible because she can’t afford it. Uniforms and shoes are needed too as the team continues to grow.”
So UPS stepped up its game and contributed to the team. Recently, J-Ann visited Cristina and the girls at practice and surprised them with boxes filled with everything they’ll need to compete this season: new uniforms, sneakers and basketballs. Additionally, J-Ann announced that the team’s transportation fees would be covered by Coyote Logistics for the entire season.
According to senior Natalie Canet, the new uniforms complement their confident attitude.
“It’s a fresh start. Because we have matching shoes and socks with our uniforms, we feel more intimidating to the other team. If somebody else walked in with matching shoes, I’d say ‘whoa, they’re real prepared!’”
But these surprises were just the warm up.
After the team suited up in their new gear, they had an unexpected new player join them for practice—WNBA superstar Cappie Pondexter from the Chicago Sky.
Cappie, who is known for her scrappy play, fit right in with Coach Siepel’s coaching style during drills and was happy she had a chance to lace up and take the court with the team.
“To be a part of this is one of a kind. Coach Cristina really cares about her girls. It’s not just about basketball. She cares about every individual young lady who’s here and I think that’s important when you have a role model such as herself.”
As for Coach Siepel, she’s hopeful the contributions made by J-Ann, UPS and Coyote Logistics will impact her team this season and beyond.
“My wish for this team is that they are able to savor these moments, look back and see what a great time this was and how fortunate they are to have this experience.”