Girls between the ages of 6 and 14 came to the Dolores Dore Eccles Health, Wellness and Athletic Center (HWAC) at Westminster College on Saturday to play soccer and basketball and learn how to hip hop, rock climb and kayak.
The event was part of National Girls and Women in Sports Day (NGWSD), a celebration that recognizes both ametur and elite female athletes and brings national attention to the promise of girls and women in sports.
“This is the first time she has done [National Girls and Women in Sports Day],” said Denise Larson, referring to her 7-year-old daughter Ella. “She’s trying out hip hop, then soccer and she’s going to finish out with swimming.”
Larson, the head coach of Westminster’s women’s golf team, said the event offers her daughter a safe, judgment-free space to explore different activities.
“I just think it’s really important for girls to be able to try out new things in a safe environment, where they’re not pressured by boys and they just get the opportunity to be themselves and try something new,” Larson said.
NGWSD began in 1987 and initially served as a tribute to Flo Hyman, an Olympic volleyball player, for her athletic achievements and dedication to promote equality for women’s sports, according to NGWSD’s website.
The national celebration has since evolved into events that acknowledge the accomplishments of female athletes, encourage young women and girls to participate in athletics and recognize the struggle for women’s equality in sports. Celebrations range from award ceremonies to community-based gatherings.
The 2018 theme for NGWSD is “Play Fair, Play IX,” which refers to Title IX — a federal law that prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex in any federally-funded educational program or activity. And though Title IX has expanded opportunities for female athletes, many schools across the country still don’t provide equal chances for girls to participate in sports, according to NGWSD’s website.
Alison McDowell, a sophomore elementary education major and assistant for Westminster’s NGWSD event, said she doesn’t see enough physical activity prioritized in schools — especially for girls. And when they do have an opportunity to participate in sports, she said their options are often limited.
“I think National Women and Girls in Sports Day and other events like it are huge for young girls,” McDowell said. “It shows them that they can do more physical activities beyond the stereotypical things like cheerleading.”
Kalle Lunsford, a junior finance and marketing major and member of Westminster’s golf team, also said she thinks girls should be exposed to physical activities traditionally reserved for boys.
“It’s really important for young girls to see older women who are successful and play sports, because it shows them that they can do it, too,” she said.