In 2006, I was a high school girls basketball coach at Marlington High School in Alliance, Ohio, where I was already an English teacher within the district. Soon after I was hired, my assistant coach and I began having open gyms for players in grades 6-12. It was at this time that we both noticed a couple of things about the girls in attendance:
- Skills and overall participation numbers were low
- Most of the players weren't even wearing proper basketball apparel
As a former player, myself, I knew that skill improvement would take time to develop. As for the participation numbers and outfitting the girls with gear that enabled them to "look good / feel good," that was something that I figured I could take care of right away.
In order to fix the 2nd of these two important needs, I utilized my artistic abilities to create a team mascot. I created a confident looking female-stick-figure-like logo holding an orange basketball as our school colors were orange and black. I soon called her the "Ballher Girl," which was a play on the term "baller." The "silent h" was added to form the word "her" and to help feminize the term.
That summer, we held our first ever "Ballher Skills Camp." Girls in attendance received a Ballher basketball, a Ballher water bottle, and a Ballher drawstring bag - all of which had our new Ballher Girl team mascot affixed to them. Participation numbers for that camp were around 70, which was an all-time high for the girls basketball program at that time. Looking back, the promotion of that camp and the Ballher Girl branding certainly resonated with the young campers in attendance and was a key to turning around a program that had little tradition and minimal excitement.
Over the next few years, shirts with the Ballher Girl logo that were worn by our players began to gain the attention of fellow coaches in our athletic conference and throughout Northeast Ohio. Before and after summer league games, coaches would often ask, "Where did your players get those shirts with the "girl" on them?" Here, these coaches explained to me that their players wanted that exact same thing for their team, which was an identity that mimicked who they were as well: strong, confident, athletic females.
It was at this time that I knew that the Ballher Girl logo was bigger than her initial intention as small school team mascot. The Ballher Girl was, and is, a mascot for ALL female athletes. She is not just any girl - she is every girl. She is a symbol of female empowerment, strength, and purpose. She is the symbol of every girl who has ever had dreams to BECOME THE BEST at whatever it is that she chooses to do in life.
In 2012, I resigned from both my teaching and coaching positions at Marlington High School. It was a difficult decision, but I knew that I had to pursue this new desire to bring the Ballher Girl logo and the overall Ballher Brand to the rest of the world. Over the course of my 6 years as the head coach of the Marlington Lady Dukes, the girls basketball program saw many improvements - including the vast improvement of our players' skill set. My first couple season saw minimal wins, but as those skills improved, so did our season win totals. By the end of my career, we were one of the top teams in our area, and each of our games were witnessed by enthusiastic fans who applauded our heart, hustle, and desire to win. It was certainly an exciting time for our school.
Today, the Ballher Girl logo is proudly displayed on the apparel, uniforms, and accessories of some of the best players and teams in Ohio and beyond - including many of the teams I once coached against. We've come a long way since the beginning of this brand, but the truth is we're just getting started. THE BEST IS YET TO COME.
Tom Miller / Ballher Brand Founder and Creator