NORTH LAWNDALE — A West Sider’s women’s basketball league returns this week.
Ana Sierra is the one-woman operation behind the Ana Sierra Women’s Basketball League, a semi-pro league of local women’s players, many of them former college standouts and overseas professionals. The league will start its eighth season Thursday with a new sponsorship and court design from Jordan Brand, Sierra said.
Games are 7-9 p.m. Tuesdays and Thursdays at UCAN, 3605 W. Fillmore St. Tickets are $10 for adults. The season will run through mid-December thanks to the support of volunteers, fans and local businesses, Sierra said.
“The sky is the limit for women’s basketball, especially right here in our neighborhoods,” Sierra said. “We continue to pave a way for women and girls to play. And I’m ecstatic more people are taking notice.”
Sierra, a former college player at West Virginia State University, started the league so she and other competitive players could play after work, she said. But Sierra took a “leap of faith” when she made the league her full-time job three years ago after leaving a corporate career Downtown, she said.
Sierra serves as a player, team captain, organizer, promoter, accountant, league commissioner and friend of the 60 women playing across six teams.
Sierra’s also now a member of the Jordan Brand Women’s Collective, a sponsorship deal featuring 33 city-based influencers who serve as ambassadors for the women’s game at Jordan events and in Jordan marketing.
With the support of Jordan, Sierra has been able to organize basketball clinics for girls throughout the year, speak in front of audiences about her league’s story and continue to grow visibility for women’s basketball, she said.
This year’s league will “tap more into amplifying the stories of our players,” Sierra said.
“A lot of these ladies aren’t just hoopers. They’re coaches. They’re police officers. They’re people with good community jobs,” Sierra said. “Not all of us can play in the WNBA. But we want to show young girls that you can still achieve great things through the game.”
Hundreds of supporters attended opening night of last year’s league.
Sierra invites local entrepreneurs to set up stands near the court and “showcase what they got going on, too,” she said. They’ll be back this year, Sierra said.
Sierra’s been organizing the league even while she recovers from a ruptured Achilles tendon she suffered while playing last month.
“There’s been days when I want to throw in the towel, say, ‘League’s canceled,’ but I know that consistency is key, and it sends a message,” Sierra said. “All the women and the girls who come watch were looking forward to it. I didn’t want to disappoint them.”
Sierra usually plays in the league, but said she’ll have to sit this season out.
“I’ll be there in my boot,” Sierra said. “I have to have basketball in my life, one way, shape or form. That’s the passion we all have for it.”
Listen to the Block Club Chicago podcast: