West Side resident Ana Sierra has devoted herself to building a grassroots women's basketball league in her neighborhood. Credit: Mack Liederman/Block Club Chicago

SOUTH LOOP — The Chicago Sky are two wins away from their first WNBA Championship, with a pivotal Game 3 Friday night at Wintrust Arena. The sold-out stadium will be loud, but the Sky’s success reverberates far beyond their South Loop home.

“It’s All Good” Episode 22 focuses on a semi-professional women’s basketball league started by Ana Sierra, who sees the Sky’s success as a way to get more Chicago women into basketball. The New York native says there weren’t many options when she moved to Chicago in 2010.

“I was looking for open runs. Ladies that played ball. I didn’t really see that,” Sierra said. “I still wanted to hoop.” 

So, Sierra made her own league — and made it her full-time gig after getting laid off. The Ana Sierra Women’s Basketball League kicked off its seventh year last month at the JLM Center in East Garfield Park, 2622 W. Jackson Blvd. 

The semi-pro league features women’s players in their 20s and 30s, many of them former standout college hoopers and overseas professionals. Sierra serves as a player, team captain, organizer, promoter, accountant, league commissioner and personal friend of the 60 women playing across six teams.

Ana Sierra enlists the help of her friends to keep the league going. Britney Landers assembles a ball rack alongside her daughter, Brielle. Credit: Mack Liederman/Block Club Chicago

Episode 22 also highlights efforts to get West Side kids more involved in sports and recreation.

The North Lawndale Athletic and Recreation Association is hosting community events to introduce neighborhood kids to lacrosse, rowing, rugby and chess, which are not typically offered at local schools. If kids show an interest, the association leaders connect them to recreational or competitive city teams and clubs.

“Basketball is king and queen in Chicago, so anytime we do anything with basketball, there’s a huge, huge showing,” said Claude Robinson, executive vice president for external affairs and diversity at UCAN, the youth development group that sponsors the athletic association. “We also wanted to show those youth who are passionate about basketball that there are other opportunities.”

Young members of the North Lawndale Athletic and Recreation Association practice rowing. Credit: Provided

Episode 22 also includes a neighborhood sponsor. Members of St. Paul’s UCC have been fans of the podcast since its launch, and we’re excited to help them spread good news happening through their congregation and outreach efforts. The episode features LGBTQ+ members of the congregation who found a welcoming home at St. Paul’s UCC.

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New episodes of “It’s All Good” go live most Thursdays.

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