Women’s Basketball offers free tickets to local schools, hopes to inspire kids

Athletic leaders hope that giving out free home game tickets to local kids and amateur teams will build a relationship with the community and inspire athletes. 


Bradley Bruno, assistant women’s basketball coach, said the women’s basketball program has been wanting to enhance the game day atmosphere, and is working to make people excited to watch the games. They extended the invitation to all local middle school, high school and amateur athletic teams. 


“We're really trying to just get the community to support SIUE women’s basketball, so to be able to reach out to them and give them free tickets, and hopefully one day these little girls that come and watch the young woman on our team play and live out their dreams, they can see that in reality and understand that their dreams, they're not too far off,” Bruno said.   


Bruno said being able to attend home games gives parents something fun to do with their kids, but that staff members also want to build relationships with the community.  


“We want to have this great relationship with the community and the young talent in the community, so the more we familiarize ourselves with the community and the young talent that's there, the better chance we have of getting young players to stay home and want to come to SIUE and play in front of their friends and family,” Bruno said. “And go out to eat after games with their friends and family, instead of going to maybe Chicago or Tennessee.” 


Bruno said athletes will benefit too, as women’s basketball has been fighting from day one to get people in the stands.  


"To get fans in seats when you're fighting with ESPN Plus and streaming services and all these things that make it so convenient for people to just stay home and watch, it really benefits our student athletes to get the seats filled and get people cheering,” Bruno said.   


Bruno said women’s basketball players try other ways to build relationships with schools to let young girls know that there are people just like them who achieved their goals.  


"[We go to the] YMCA right before Christmas, we go to schools and read,” Bruno said. “I know a lot of our own players take initiative upon themselves to do their own community service, and that's not really spoken out, so just to be able to be there for the community and then hopefully in return that will build this relationship to get people to come to games.” 


Ariel Massengale, assistant women’s basketball coach, said they are trying to expand their brand and the women’s basketball program.  


"We’re going to get the local community involved and have fans come to the game and just expose our university to schools [n] our outside community what it is that our university and institution has to offer,” Massengale said.  


Massengale said the idea came from Head Coach Samantha Quigley Smith, who has been looking to build their fan base.  


“We also had a free kid's clinic at the local YMCA and in December, so really just trying to get our young ladies out into the community, because I feel like when people see them and feel like they have a connection or had both relationships with them that they make them more inclined to want to come support them on the basketball court."  


According to Massengale, the goal of having more young people at games is to expose them to goals and ambitions. 


“You see a little girl look up to older young ladies, college athletes, that are going to school, getting college paid for, bettering themselves on and off the basketball court, just to get from that experience of what it's like ... Because you've got to see it to believe it,” Massengale said.  


Jazmin Pitts, assistant women’s basketball coach, said they hope to encourage more young people to play college sports. 


"Teach them life lessons in a sense of, ‘They can do it too,’ and then also just watching young women play this sport at a high level and hopefully inspiring the next generation, whether a young woman or young man,” Pitts said.  


Those interested in free tickets may email awhetst@siue.edu for more information. 

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