National Girls and Women in Sports Day: A Celebration of Girls in Sports at SSSAS and Nationwide
Run, shoot, dive, score girls can do it all! On February 3rd, 2021, the United States and the St. Stephen’s and St. Agnes community celebrated National Girls and Women in Sports Day. This national “celebration inspires girls and women to play and be active, to realize their full power.” This year, the theme is staying mentally and physically healthy during challenging times especially throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.
In the Upper School, female athletes had the opportunity to participate in virtual events with Lower School Saints. Some athletes virtually visited Lower School classrooms to answer questions on what it means to be an athlete and inspire young Saints to reach their full potential regardless of who they are. Also, Senior Emily Smith and Sophomore Julia Duvall participated in a virtual Lower School P.E. class where they led warmups and talked about what it means to be an athlete as well.
I had the opportunity to profile three successful senior female student-athletes, learn more about their experience as a Saint and explore what National Girls and Women in Sports Day means to them.
According to the Women’s Sports Foundation website, National Girls and Women in Sports Day “is powered by the Women's Sports Foundation - a group of advocates seeking to protect Title IX and advance gender equity, athletes using their platform to inspire greatness, and coaches working daily to promote play.” Title IX “was passed in 1972 and states that ‘No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity.’”
I also had the opportunity to speak with the Athletic Director for Girls, Coach Koroma. Coach Koroma gave some insight about what National Girls and Women in Sports Day means for her: “I think this day to me is one of my favorite days of the year outside of when we have Seminary Hill Cup and other things. But this is a special day because it’s a national day it’s not just a day that is particular to St. Stephen’s and St. Agnes. I think knowing the roots of St. Stephens and St. Agnes when St. Agnes couldn’t play sports and they didn’t have uniforms and knowing how little access women had to sports historically only a couple of decades ago compared to where we are now it makes me proud to see all the opportunities that our students have here and that girls across the US have.”
Although the athlete experience has changed at SSSAS this school year during the pandemic Koroma emphasizes how proud she is of all student-athletes: “Resiliency above everything else. I think with COVID-19 and with sports being so disrupted I think people have found ways to continue to be engaged and continue to train. And grappling with the fact that it is so different than what individuals are used to shows how resilient all of our athletes are our girls and boys. And I think particularly for girls it’s hard because it’s so much a piece of identity for so many people. In terms of who they are and where they find their peace or happiness or release from the day.”
Despite not having sanctioned athletic competition, Coach Koroma has seen some extremely positive things from female athletes that she may have not seen if we were in a typical school year. She has seen “older athletes mentoring younger athletes...I think those more intimate mentorship moments I have been really happy to see because you may not see that in the same way when you’re in a competitive season because people are focused on who the opponent is or playing time and with those things taken off the table I think it has allowed us to shift back to what some of the purpose of why sports are so important in general.”
Coach Koroma also emphasized how she thought the NGWSD celebrations were “super positive because its high school students who came from the Lower School or were once young girls themselves being able to come full circle and give back to younger kids who envisioned seeing themselves as athletes...it was nice to see how excited the lower school kids and teachers were to have high school kids.”
The COVID-19 pandemic has not allowed for traditional female-centered athletics events such as Seminary Hill Cup, the Girls Basketball Tip-Off Tournament, Girls Lacrosse Spring Fling, and State Championships. Trystan stated how, “not having sports has been really hard, because its something a lot of people look forward to and its the highlight of their day. It’s like an outlet...but not having that competition at the same level is really sad and shows how important it is and you don’t realize how much you have until it’s gone, and now that it’s gone and it’s sad.”
Emily also expressed her disappointment but she also highlighted ways in which she is finding the positives in the midst of a frustrating time. “It has felt very disappointing and sad because those events are always ones that I look forward to every year because I come together with my entire team to feel united and supported by each other. However, this year I have had opportunities to step up as a captain and help unite my teams so that we can still try to have that bond that is so important to everyone. I have also focused on pushing myself individually and working hard on my own when I don’t have the opportunity to have an organized practice. I have relearned that it is important to work hard when no one else is watching so I can be ready for any type of season that we might get.”
Our female student-athletes also wanted to emphasize the importance of having female role models. Emily stated how “as a female athlete, it is important to me to have female role models in sports so I can look up to them. It also reminds me that there are women just like me who are succeeding at their sport and I can be like them too. Having role models in sports to look up to is always important because it gives me the motivation to work hard in hopes that I can be like them someday, but when those role models are female, it allows me to relate to them in a deeper way.”
Callie also highlighted how she believes “having female role models in sports is mutually beneficial to both the role model and the girl looking up to them. Professional female athletes put in a tremendous amount of effort that deserves appreciation and young girls, who can give that appreciation, really benefit from seeing representation in sport To any girl even considering playing a sport at the Upper School, I would say go for it! Sports have been an integral part of my experience at SSSAS and brought me friends and opportunities I wouldn’t have if I hadn’t decided to try out.”
In the Winter Emily Smith spends a majority of her time in the pool with the swim team while balancing time with her number one sport, soccer. She emphasizes the importance of National Women in Sports Day and sees the day as a celebration of unity. “National Girls and Women in Sports Day gives women and girls the appreciation and the recognition that they deserve. To me, it is a day to unite with my fellow female athletes to lift each other up and also to encourage other young girls to play sports and be proud of their athleticism. It also reinforces the idea that women can do anything and will always support each other and have each other’s backs.” On the day of the celebration Emily
had the opportunity to be a role model for Lower School students during a virtual P.E. class because of her experience as a role model, she also highlights the importance of having strong female role models in her life. “As a female athlete, it is important to me to have female role models in sports so I can look up to them. It also reminds me that there are women just like me who are succeeding at their sport and I can be like them too. Having role models in sports to look up to is always important because it gives me the motivation to work hard in hopes that I can be like them someday, but when those role models are female, it allows me to relate to them in a deeper way.”
In the Fall, Callie Heimbech loves to start the school year off with cross country. By bonding at Shrine Mont and creating memories through their love for running Callie adores her team and the bond they share. She shared how sports have impacted her life: “I think sports are really empowering, especially to girls. My experience has always been super positive, with my coaches encouraging me to push myself and gain incredible life skills like confidence and communication.” In regards to cross country, Callie states how “Cross country is a great sport as it encourages strong bonds between teammates and is a
fantastic support system. Our girl group long runs are always entertaining, from running to Fresh Market or getting lost, and even more fun when Coach Jo comes along!” To her, National Girls and Women in Sports Day “is a great way to uplift athletes and programs that historically have not received the same celebration as their male counterparts. Sports are so integral to developing confidence, discipline, and connection– all things that greatly benefit girls and women!”
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In the Spring, Trystan Fogg is spotted on the Lacrosse field leading her team as a defender. When asked how National Girls and Women in Sports Day means to her Trystan stated, “I got to talk with a 1st-grade class, and I think this is a really funny question because I explained the day to them and gave them some history and the first question I got was from this adorable little girl and she said ‘is today a real holiday? I never hear anything about it.’ I looked at her and thought it shows the importance of why we have National Girls and Women in Sports Day but to have this younger girl not knowing that she has a day to celebrate me being
able to do sports, being able to excel at sports, and being able to pave the way for women to get into sports. I was like we need to make this day more known because it kinda has become more important to me...so having this little girl not knowing that she has her day was eye-opening...going forward when we do stuff with younger kids that's where it starts. These children are going to be the next adults, the next wave of politicians, athletes and having them going into everything knowing that there’s nothing they cant do is starting from these days like National Girls and Women in Sports Day.”