MSU women's basketball coach holds girls retreat

Posted at 11:48 AM, Apr 01, 2016
and last updated 2016-04-02 11:44:05-04

MSU women's head basketball coach Suzy Merchant and the Eli Broad College of Business have worked together to create the first annual EmpowHER leadership retreat this April 29th-30th, 2016.

This retreat is designed for girls in 5th - 9th grade who may struggle with self-confidence and peer pressure.

EmpowHER is in honor of April Bocian who took her own life in spring 2015 due to mental illness and depression that went unknown to friends and family. Bocian was a fun-loving teen from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. According to Merchant, Bocian had nearly 25 college basketball recruitment offers, including one from Michigan State University.

Merchant was in disbelief when she heard the tragic news last spring. "I've been a head coach for 20-something years," said Merchant. "And I can remember the exact call, exactly where I was, and I was just blown away  –absolutely blown away."

According to Bocian's remembrance website, "Family, friends and teammates have countless memories of how April made them laugh and brightened their day, whether she was clowning around with basketball friends, playing practical jokes on her sisters or spending time with her family."

Merchant wanted to reach out to young girls undergoing similar situations. Merchant said she noticed a trend of declining self-confidence in teen girls throughout recent years.

"I just wanted to offer an opportunity for young girls to come to our empowerment retreat where we give them tangible skill sets, so that when they go back to their middle schools and junior highs and early high schools they are more capable, a little more confident and they can draw on some of the things that were able to give them at this retreat," Merchant said.

The retreat is limited to the first 150 girls that sign up. EmpowHER will hold workshops on how to find self-confidence, handle pressures of social media, handle bullying situations and more.  

The day will also include yoga to teach the girls meditation. At the end, girls will be able to connect on social media to stay in touch with others that might have similar situations at home.

"If something's going on or they need a little affirmation from a kid that maybe went through what they went through, they’ll have this positive network here to fall back on as well," Merchant said.

As of March 24, 2016, EmpowHER has raised over $20,000 for this event, and is continuing to accept donations and sponsorships. For more information, to sign up, or make a donation visit