Open gyms are an excellent way for basketball players to play full-court 5v5, get a good workout and improve their game. Yet, few places female athletes have to fight for acceptance more than on the unregulated gym floor. It can be intimidating to find your footing at open gyms. Here are what to expect and some things to keep in mind as you try out open gyms.
While there are women’s-only open gyms in some cities, they aren’t always common. If you can’t find any in your area, don’t let that stop you from getting on the court. Depending on the open gym, there will be different skill levels, different vibes, and different rules, so you may need to try a few out to see which gyms are the best fit.
How to Find an Open Gym
If you’re just starting out, a simple google search is best. “Open Gym basketball near me” will yield plenty of results. Most gyms have open gym times, though many have an entry fee or require a membership. There are also outdoor courts with much less structured times, and you can walk right up and play. Often, if you find one open gym, you can ask the other players where else they play and start to build a network.
How to Get on the Court
Open gyms often use a first-come, first-serve system. If you’re unsure or a little nervous, it may be best to arrive early to be one of the first players shooting around, which will make it clear that you want in on the game. Other gyms will have a sign up list. When you show up, you write your name down, and the next five on the list are a team. It may be helpful to ask someone what the system is for that open gym.
Here’s an unfortunate truth. Some guys don’t want to play with women. So you may need to advocate for yourself. Some people may scratch your name off the list, or look over you when taking the next five, or say their team is full when it isn’t. You have the same right to play as anyone else. Don’t be afraid to step up and say, “Actually, my name is on the list next” or “I arrived before him, it should be my turn on the court.”
Some Challenges of Open Gym
Most open gyms are played with a men’s ball. If you’ve only been shooting with a women’s ball, expect your first few shots to be short and adjust accordingly. Often times you can get some warm-up shots in with someone else’s ball to get adjusted. But keep in mind that you might need to put more power into your shot, especially as your legs get tired.
Most guys are going to be bigger and stronger. If you’ve only been playing with women, there may be some differences. Expect your shot to get blocked. Expect to get pushed around in the post. It’s okay! You will adjust to the new style of play, and in the end, this challenge will make you a better player.
While most guys are good competitors, guys don’t want to play with girls on occasion. This typically plays out in one of two ways. They will not play defense on you (possibly because they don’t think you can handle it or because they don’t want to get beat by a girl). Or they will go the other way and play over-the-line aggressive defense.
If you’ve got someone who won’t play defense on you, great! Take it at them. Use this as an opportunity to try new moves or different shots. Make them play defense on you.
If you have someone who is too aggressive, don’t be afraid to call your own fouls. While it will be a more physical game when playing open gym, you have every right to set your own boundaries and call fouls on unfair play.
The Reality of Playing Open Gym
As the only girl on the court, you may feel you have to “prove yourself” to be taken seriously. You may need to work harder than an average guy to be accepted onto a team. It can be frustrating, but don’t let this stop you. If you show up consistently and play hard, you will earn your place and reap the benefits of playing open gym.
One significant benefit is the community that can be found at a good open gym. If you start showing up consistently, you’ll get to know the other regulars and become part of the group. This environment can foster learning opportunities as veteran players offer tips to improve your game or encouragement if you’re having a rough day.
No matter what, you will improve as you play against bigger, stronger, more skilled players. Due to the competitive, loser-sits nature of open gyms, you’ll learn how to be a fierce competitor and play to win. Working with a different set of players will force you to adjust to new playing styles and rhythms, making you more adaptable on the court. Overall you will explore and develop new aspects of your game.
Now all that’s left is to get out there, find a gym with a good vibe that pushes your skill level and go have some fun.