Girls and Women in Sports Day recognized throughout the area
Published 9:30 am Thursday, February 2, 2023
Fifty years after the Title XI civil rights law, schools across the country recognized the 37th annual National Girls and Women in Sports Day on Wednesday. The annual event, powered by the Women’s Sports Foundation, promotes equal access and opportunity for girls and women in athletics.
“The opportunities for women are just out there more so than ever,” said Springwood basketball coach Lisa Sampson said. “So you really want those girls to take advantage of what’s there before them and not think that anything can hold them back on what they dream of being.”
Sampson has been coaching the girls’ and boys’ teams for the past four years. Having played basketball for Auburn University herself, she has seen the changes that athletics have made over the years.
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“Tons of emerging sports have come about. Several of those sports have been geared toward women, and we’re celebrating the 50th year of Title Nine,” said Point University Athletics Director Jaunelle White. “So all of that, I believe, plays into the trajectory that women’s sports have had, both high school and collegiately and little starting all the way in little league or youth sports.”
After a successful 20 years in athletics education, White has seen the importance of bringing opportunities to both girls and boys.
Part of encouraging students to pursue their goals in athletics starts with seeing representation in athletic leadership roles. Many students look at their coaches, advisors and directors for guidance on what is achievable. White said that she was fortunate to have seen inclusive representation when she was a student.
“I’m incredibly grateful for the career that I’ve had lots of mentors, both men and women that poured into me,” White said. “So I make it a point to pour into others that I have the opportunity to either work alongside or help grow and mentor the student-athletes.”
White serves as an example of representation in sports as not only the first female athletic director but also the first minority/Black athletic director at Point University.
“It’s like that hashtag going around, ‘hashtag representation matters,’ and it absolutely does,” White said. “Young people — be it male, female, especially minorities — they need to be able to see themselves in someone else, and it’s taken a long time to get there. I think we’re still behind a little bit, but I do like the direction that we’re going.”
With such strides as the WNBA, girls and women have more opportunities to achieve their goals and find success on a professional level. Sampson encourages her students to foster confidence in themselves.
“I think we’re at a point today where it’s really thriving, and they dream about what they want to be, and now they can really pursue it and have confidence that they can get to where they want to go. So that’s fun to watch,” Sampson said.
Not only is athletics important for physical health, but it also makes an impact on mental health and wellness. By coaching through the pandemic, Sampson saw firsthand how beneficial sports can be as a positive outlet.
“Basketball was an outlet. Of course, our practices were limited, and there were times when we couldn’t practice because of COVID protocol. But just giving the kids the opportunity to have somewhere to go and have something to do just kept it positive for them,” Sampson said.
Being involved with sports also impacts students’ futures as well. On the collegiate level, being a part of a team has led many of White’s students to find success in their careers.
“When career fairs come and different companies come, a lot of them are looking for student-athletes because they understand hard work,” White said. “They have a good work ethic. They understand teamwork, time management, leadership.”
However, the most important thing for every student-athlete to remember is that there is a balance. According to White, athletics can be a powerful piece of a person’s education, but Point University athletics department focuses on the person as a whole.
“We’re always encouraging them to remain active but also take some time for themselves, to not put all their eggs in one basket and think that ‘it’s just athletics or bust’ because that’s not the case,” White said. “We want them to be well-rounded. I like to say that athletics is just the vehicle for them to accomplish their goals.”