On Sunday, January 12, James Madison University Athletics celebrated the 28th annual National Girls and Women in Sports Day with local elementary and middle school girls joining several of the school’s women’s sports programs for various physical activities.
The event welcomed kindergarten to eighth grade girls to participate in clinics led by James Madison’s female athletes of the volleyball, track and field, soccer, field hockey and swim and dive teams. In keeping with this year’s national theme, “Passing the Torch, Blazing the Trail,” the day began with student-athletes sharing their stories about what sport has done for them. As Abby Duncan, track and field sprinter, stated, “It gives the girls of all different ages hope for their athletic future from us girls who are older.”
Following the speeches, the girls were separated into three groups based on their grade and prepared for the activities. The JMU female athletes ran and organized three stations: soccer, volleyball and track and field. As the groups rotated through each station, participants improved old and learned new skills in each of the sports. In addition to instructing the girls, the athletes were able to interact with and enjoy the girls company on a social level, making the event just as enjoyable for the athletes as the participants.
“It was as much fun for the athletes as it was for the girls in the community. It was a wonderful occasion to bring everyone together, to not only showcase our school sports, but also the wonderful personalities that are within the community.” Ta’ Frias, Women’s Track and Field Coach, stated.
After the clinic and activities concluded, the girls, both athletes and participants alike, left with smiling faces, excitement and maybe even a little bit of sweat as they proceeded to the women’s basketball game.
“It was an extremely fun event with a great turn out in which everyone’s positive attitude made for a really great day,” Martha Stewart, junior volleyball player, recalled.
When asked about the importance of National Girls and Women in Sports Day and events similar, Preston Knott, father of second grade participant Lauren Knott, stated, “It is important mainly because it builds relationships, gives them confidence and builds leadership, not only in their sports, but also within the community. Days like today build character and make the girls less shy and more active.”
National Girls and Women in Sports Day began in 1987 as a day to honor female Olympic volleyball player Flo Hyman. Hyman was diagnosed with Marfan’s Syndrome in 1986 resulting in her death that same year. Although it was a day to honor her achievements and strides towards equality for women in sports, it has since evolved into much more. Currently, all 50 states celebrate the day with thousands of participants.
In addition to honoring Hyman’s achievements, the day is meant to celebrate the achievements of all female athletes as well as encourage female participation in sports while also acknowledging the continued struggle for equality for women in sports. This year’s national event will be held on February 5th, but rather than skip the day due to scheduling conflicts, James Madison University decided to host its own special day of celebration.
“Being a female working in the collegiate athletics industry, I was excited to host a National Girls and Women In Sports Day event to let local youth girls experience a variety of sports and interact with JMU female student-athletes,” remarked Taylor Dewey, assistant director of marketing for JMU Athletics and the event’s primary organizer. “Even at a young age I think it’s important for these girls to understand all of the benefits that participating in sports can bring to their lives – from staying active and healthy to opening doors when it comes to college due to recruitment and scholarship opportunities. I was extremely proud of the way the JMU student-athletes represented our University and instructed the girls who participated in the clinic. If we inspired just one girl to dream of growing up to become a collegiate student-athlete, then the event was well worth hosting.”