Quirynn Slater has dreams of playing for the Phoenix Mercury or Minnesota Lynx WNBA teams one day. As co-captain of her high school girls varsity basketball team, she shows great promise.

Her school, Madison Highland Prep, finished second in the state two of the three years Slater has been on the team. And last year, she was named offensive player of the year.

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Slater’s hoops career began seven years ago at the Legacy Foundation Chris-Town YMCA when her dad enrolled her in the Jr. Suns league. Her interest in the game, however, started much earlier.

“I’d been watching basketball with my dad since I was little,” says Slater. “We’d sit down and just watch basketball, and that’s how we spent our time together. I was always really interested in it. I thought, ‘Oh, I’m probably going to play basketball when I’m older.’”

When Slater got to her middle school years, her dad started searching for a gym or program where she could be on a team and learn first-hand how to play the game. Most gyms don’t welcome young teens, but he heard about the YMCA and looked into it.

“One of the first places on my list to check was the Chris-Town Y because it’s so close to where we live,” says Slater’s dad, Shane Abbott. “So we went there, and I looked into it for, I’d say, several months before I decided it was the right place.

“They had exactly what we needed. It was perfect.”

Keep Your Head in the Game

As a new player, Slater was nervous when she first joined the team. But that feeling soon dissipated.

“I made a lot of friends right off the bat,” says Slater. “I think that was my favorite part about it—how all the other kids were so nice and made me feel comfortable being on a team for the very first time.”

In addition to making friends and learning the fundamentals of basketball, she also learned a lot about herself. That was by design. The YMCA’s Jr. Suns basketball leagues emphasize both skill development and character development. As with every other YMCA program, focus is placed on the four core values of caring, honesty, respect and responsibility.

For Slater, the biggest lesson learned was about controlling her emotions during the tense atmosphere of the game.

“I’d get so frustrated,” says Slater. “It’s hard to control your emotions during the game. But my coach taught us that it’s important to keep cool. He’d bring us in the huddle and tell us, ‘It’s all right, keep your head in the game, don’t get distracted by the other kids and just play your heart out.’”

Effort Equals Reward

Besides being a standout basketball player, Slater also has been captain of the girls varsity volleyball team for three years and an academic star. By taking honors classes she has earned a weighted GPA of 4.75.

“Sports teach you that how successful you are in something is determined by how much work you’re willing to put in,” says the 17-year-old high school junior. “I learned about pushing myself. Whatever you want to do, you just have to put your mind to it.”

Although Slater has moved beyond playing on the Jr. Suns league, she still visits the Chris-Town Y regularly. In-between sports seasons at school, she keeps her basketball and volleyball skills sharp by practicing at the Y and doing a little weight training.

“There’s so many memories when I walk in that gym,” says Slater. “The experience of playing on the Jr. Suns team helped me find my place. I picked up so much knowledge. Without the Chris-Town Y, I would not be where I am right now.”

A Gift From the Phoenix Suns

In addition to lending their name to the YMCA’s youth basketball program, the Phoenix Suns invite every player to one of their games and provide a premium merchandise gift. Plus, as part of the commemoration of the team’s 50th season in 2017-18, Phoenix Suns Charities committed to building or refurbishing 12 YMCA basketball courts.

“This gift from the Suns will significantly enhance the quality, safety and capacity of our youth sports programs,” says Bryan Madden, president and CEO of the Valley of the Sun YMCA. “As a result, more kids like Quirynn will have the opportunity to be on a team for the first time and build their confidence through the sport of basketball.”

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Quirynn Slater with her dad, Shane Abbott, at the Chris-Town Y