National Girls and Women in Sport Day began in 1987 to honor the life of Olympic Volleyball Player Flo Hyman, who dedicated her life to sexual equality in sports. Twenty-six years later, the day is celebrated in all 50 states, promoting and honoring female participation in athletics. Reporter Pat O’Rourke has more.
Feb. 6 marked the 27th National Girls and Women in Sports Day, a joint effort by Girls Incorporated, the National Association for Girls and Women in Sport, the National Women’s Law Center, and the Women’s Sports Foundation. Throughout February, the day was celebrated with events in which females were able to take the field or court and play a sport to promote female participation in athletics.
Springfield College recognized the day on February 16 with an event for girls between kindergarten and sixth grade. Breena Salwocki, a Springfield College student-athlete, helped organize the event.
"I think it’s a good way for young kids to see what it’s like to be part of a team and it gives them a way to enjoy a team sport and interact with older people and look up to them and be like, 'Oh wow I want to do something like that when I grow up and I want to be part of a team,'" she said.
A similar event has been held at Western New England University for 13 years for girls between the ages of 7 and 12. This year’s event was canceled due to inclement weather, though more than 200 girls from the Springfield area had signed up ,according to program coordinator Jen Kolins, who considers the day important not only for the young girls, but the student-athletes as well.
"Our student-athletes are role models and this is a chance for them to display some of that role modeling to younger eyes that are watching and look up to them and are so eager to become a middle-school, high school, or collegiate student-athlete," Kolins said. "The importance is not just how hard you throw a ball or how long you can kick the ball or what have you but it’s really about the life lessons that come with sport. It’s about the dedication, the commitment, the team camaraderie, the obstacles and how you respond to them that are life lessons that translate from the field, the court, the pool, really into life."
Again, Springfield College student-athlete Breena Salowicki.
"It’s always been a huge part of my life. A lot the spirit, mind and body, a lot of it has to do with like being part of athletics and being a part of a team so it’s been a great experience."
Kolins, who currently serves as the head coach of the men’s and women’s tennis teams at Western New England, credits many strong women like her personal idol Billie Jean King for breaking through barriers that stood between women and athletics. Their dedication to opening doors for females in sports has inspired her to do the same. Seeing the faces of the girls on Girls and Women in Sports Day reinforces the point for a new generation of athletes.
"To see them so passionate about sport and not really know the boundaries and not know that there’s a possibility that they couldn’t move forward with their sport in high school or maybe it’s not for them college, they don’t know those boundaries," she said. "The girls today know that they can do that and it’s really about the women that paved the way before us."