Editor’s Note: Story has been updated to include a correction. Taryn Draine began playing basketball with her brother and father, trying out for her schools team in the seventh grade, not sixth grade.
Basketball is not just about dribbling the ball and making free throws for middle schooler Taryn Draine but rather about being a role model for younger girls in a male dominated sport. Whether on or off the court, Draine,13, aims to be a team player and has embodied the qualities needed to be named NBC’s SportsEngine and Truesport “Athlete of the Month.”
Draine, an eighth grader at Gwendolyn Brooks Middle School, began playing basketball with her brother and dad and tried out for her schools team in the seventh grade. The Oak Park school is at 325 S. Kenilworth Ave.
As her passion for basketball grew, Draine found role models in other women who have dedicated themselves to sports. Wanting to add to the female representation in sports, Draine hopes to inspire younger girls to pursue their dreams of being professional athletes.
“Seeing the WNBA and seeing other girls playing basketball, I thought I could do it too,” Draine said. “So, I made that my goal, to go to the WNBA and play basketball.”
Her dedication to the sport and to being a leader amongst her teammates wasn’t unnoticed by the people in her life. Always trying to find opportunities for her children, Tiffany Draine, Taryn’s mother, said she was scrolling the internet when she came across NBC’s SportsEngine “Athlete of the Month” and knew she had to nominate her daughter.
“I talked about how Taryn is inspirational. She has these goals, but she wants to see other people win too,” Tiffany Draine said. “When it comes to her teammates, she is the person who always keeps the morale up, she has a lot of positive words to share.”
To be selected as “Athlete of the Month,” nominated young athletes should embody the TrueSport’s Core Values, which are sportsmanship, character building and life skills, and clean and healthy performances.
Sportsmanship is a value that rings true to Taryn Draine, who said she tries to be a shoulder that her teammates can lean on when they need a little extra support.
“I am a good listener, and I am really good at motivating my team mates, when it is a bad day or someone is not feeling good I always try to uplift them and do the best I can whether it is on the court or off the court,” Taryn Draine said.
“Yeah, she is good at her sport but she is also a good peer, she is also a good friend, and she wants to see everyone win,” Tiffany Draine said.
Tiffany Draine managed to keep the nomination a secret from Taryn Draine and was excited for her daughter to “have a little bit of the spotlight.”
Taryn Draine said she was surprised and excited when her mom told her she had been selected as the February “Athlete of the Month.”
“I was like ‘oh my gosh, when is this going to happen,’” Taryn said. “I was so excited.”
Taryn Draine was connected with TrueSport Ambassador and Team USA netball team captain, Amara Mbionwu, who interviewed Taryn Draine on her passion for basketball, how she keeps her teammates motivated, and her experience as a junior journalist.
Taryn Draine has been involved with Chi-Side, a sports media training program teaching kids how to cover basketball games. Through Chi-Side, Taryn Draine learned how to conduct interviews and report game statistics.
“It is definitely something that I want to do as a side career,” Taryn Draine said. “It is really fun, and you get front row access to games. You get to meet the players and really know what was going through their head when they did this or when they did that.”
Taryn continues to keep up with the game, whether reporting or on the court. While her school’s team’s season ended, she is still playing ball through the Impact Basketball Program out of Oak Park, which keeps her motivated to pursue her passion.
“It’s about motivating younger girls to play basketball, just like I did when I saw older girls playing,” Taryn Draine said. “I wanted to inspire other little girls to do that too. We don’t get paid as much as the boys in the NBA and everybody looks down at women’s basketball, so I think it’s important to uplift it.”