Why does the BeYOUtiful Classic exist? When, why, how did it start? Why not just another tournament?
I grew up playing basketball from as young as I can remember. I had a great family and support around me, yet I still felt inadequate in so many areas of life. There was nothing “wrong” with my life, yet I felt so distant from everything.
As early as 8 years old, I began to struggle with self-image and identity. Little by little those very battles showed up as full blown eating disorders in my moment by moment life from the age of 14. This led me into unhealthy relationships, often times physically abusive ones. I didn’t feel like I deserved any better. By the time I was 21, I realized how low my self-esteem was and how negative my thoughts about myself were. I had fallen into a place of doubt, insecurity and fear. I sought help for the first time in my life. Over the next 3 years, I experienced life-change. Through that change, I learned to love myself. I learned to battle the voices in my head telling me I wasn’t good enough. There was a complete renewing of my mind.
When I look back, I can see how basketball was a tool that helped me through so many of my mental battles. Through high school and college, basketball was there. I knew it would always be a part of my life. When my coaching career began, I knew then that there was an opportunity to walk alongside young female athletes that may be facing the very battles I had.
When I began coaching at Bowie, there was a varsity tournament in place that was shared with the boys. In the 4th year of being at Bowie, we moved the girls tournament to a different weekend to accommodate more teams. My mind began racing on how the tournament could be used as a platform to give encouragement to more than the athletes at Bowie. We wanted to provide encouragement and support for coaches and athletes who may be dealing with their own battles in their minds. This is where the name of the tournament came about. The Bowie BeYOUtiful Classic. We wanted to find a way to welcome each team and start their experience here in Austin off right. That is how the welcome baskets for every team started. We also wanted to be able to get information out, so we started a dinner opening night of the tournament with a speaker on different topics plaguing the minds of young women. These topics included self-image, eating disorders, alcohol and drug abuse, abusive relationships, mental unhealthiness, and more. We quickly expanded from 8 teams that year to 12, then 16, then 24, and now 32. The tournament hosts some of the top talent from all over Texas.
The evolution of the BeYOUtiful Classic has landed the overall theme as Mental Health Matters. We are proud to host this event in such a way as to bring awareness to mental health in teens and support our non-profit friends at NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness). NAMI provide free education to schools, parents, etc. We aim to reach as many athletes as we can with the messaging that they are not alone, people care, and there is help and support.
Thank you to Austin ISD, Bowie Girl’s Basketball Booster Club and parents, all of the coaches that bring their teams to this event, all of the athletes that work so hard to compete, all of our sponsors and our fans who make this event possible every year.
Vickie Benson - Bowie High School Girls Varsity Basketball Coach