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Students say National Girls and Women in Sports Day encourages girls to ‘explore sports options’

Jillian Leis plays pickleball with girl athletes Feb. 22 in the Health, Wellness, and Activity Center at Westminster College’s National Girls and Women in Sports Day event. Leis said girls can be themselves when they are not competing against boys. (Shaylie Johnson)

Student-athletes said celebrating National Girls and Women in Sports Day (NGWSD) is important to encourage girls to try more activities and find athletic role models.

National recognition of this day began in 1987 to promote equality for women in sports and to acknowledge the accomplishments of female athletes, according to womenssportsfoundation.org.

Westminster College celebrated its own NGWSD for the 11th year on Feb. 22. Student-athletes coached 6- to 14-year-old girls in the Health, Wellness and Athletic Center (HWAC) for three rounds of activities in about three hours.

“This is a national celebration to celebrate National [Girls and] Women in Sports Day,” said Traci Siriprathane, the assistant dean of students and student wellbeing and support. “It’s important for girls to come and participate and play and try new activities.”

Students say the celebration provides a safe learning environment for girls

Girls who signed up for the National Girls and Women in Sports Day event Feb. 22 at Westminster College play basketball in the Health Wellness Activity Center. Traci Siriprathane, assistant dean of students and student wellbeing and support said student-athletes are there to teach and be role models for the girls. (Shaylie Johnson)

Some Westminster students said it’s important to hold the clinic because girls aren’t often encouraged to participate in the vast majority of sports. But at this event, they are.

“We don’t see a lot of girls doing basketball or you don’t see a lot of girls doing rock climbing,” said Alyson Pinkelman, an HWAC staff member and senior majoring in public health and music studies. “So I think it’s a great way for girls to explore sports options and still be safe and have a safe environment.”

Because the event celebrates women in sports, it is held as an all-girls clinic. The sports are taught by female athletes and are supervised by female staff.

Jillian Leis, a fifth year chemistry major on the track and cross country team said it’s important to only have girls at the event so they feel more comfortable. She said when girls aren’t around boys they feel less pressured to compete and can be themselves.

Some athletes said having this event can teach girls leadership skills and offer them a glimpse into their athletic future by learning from college athletes.

“If you really have a passion for a sport and you start at a young age, you really want to learn from people that are playing at certain levels, like the collegiate level,” said Sariah Naea, a business marketing major on the women’s volleyball team. “That’s who I looked up to: people who played in college and it was my goal to play at the collegiate level.”

Student-athletes and their role models

One of the most important parts of the event is that the girls are being coached by female role models, according to Traci Siriprathane.

Student-athletes said a big part of their athletic journey was the women role models they could look up to, especially in their families.

“I think having someone to look up to especially in sports was something that was big for me growing up,” said Hunter Krebs, a finance major on the women’s basketball team. “My mom played sports when she was younger […] and my older sister played sports, so I remember going to her games and just sitting there watching her.”

Student-athlete Sariah Naea said her sister was also a big role model for her and helped her visualize what she wanted to pursue in her athletic career.

“Just from watching her and seeing where she was and where she is at now, it just inspired me to be able to do that too,” said Naea. “She also acted as a coach and she was always there for me and taught me so many skills.”

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Shaylie Johnson
Shaylie Johnson is a junior majoring in communication and minoring in business. She followed the Utah stereotype by getting married young but is determined not to drop out of college to have 6,000 children. Instead, she is a crazy plant lady who is often found at rock concerts or eating whole lasagnas. One day, you'll see her name again as a writer -- who knows what it will be for, but it'll be big.

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