Saturday, February 4, 2023

UM Athletes Celebrate National Women and Girls in Sports Day

The 27th annual National Girls and Women is Sports Day is Feb. 5 and Oxford honored this locally on Sunday. Student athletes and girls ranging from age 5 to 13 gathered in the Peggy Gillom Sports Center on the Ole Miss Campus to participate in the celebration.

Sophomore Alison Hovatter gives tips on how to properly hold a golf club.
Sophomore Alison Hovatter gives tips on how to properly hold a golf club.

The Women’s Sports Foundation created this event in 1987 to honor Flo Hyman, an Olympic volleyball player who died while playing due to a genetic disease called Marfan syndrome. According to the organization’s website, the day also serves to acknowledge the achievement and progress women have made in sports over past decades.
In its second year, Ole Miss has hosted a free clinic to expose Oxford’s youth to collegiate sports and increase attendance at the women’s basketball games. Seventy-five girls participated in the clinic and then attended the basketball game afterward. The basketball team was unable to attend the clinic, but every other women’s sport offered at the University participated, including the rifle, tennis, volleyball, track and field, softball, soccer, and golf teams.
“I get a lot of comments before [the clinic] happens or after it happens that they are really excited about it or that they had a really good time,” Kendra Miller, director of the event and marketing coordinator, said. “I think there are a lot of little girls that have a connection with the student athletes.”
Junior Marie-Pierre Bakima helps the girls practice setting a volleyball.
Junior Marie-Pierre Bakima helps the girls practice setting a volleyball.

The girls learned about each sport. They were split into groups based on age and spent about 12 minutes with each team. During each session, student athletes taught the girls how to use the equipment specific to their respective sport. The track team showed the groups how to pass a relay baton, soccer taught the girls how to dribble, and the girls got to practice their aim with the rifle team. In addition to a free t-shirt, the girls were treated to lunch from Old Venice Pizza Co. before the basketball game.
“I think it’s phenomenal to expose young women to our fantastic student athletes and to all the sports that they have for women’s athletics,” Lynette Johnson, executive associate athletics director and senior woman administrator, said.
Parent Ronald Jeri said he brought his daughter Sofia to the event to learn more about the different sports she could play in college.
“It’s a good day for kids to get exposure to all kinds of different sports, maybe some sports they don’t know that can be played in college, or maybe just a sport that they had never seen or have an interest in, but don’t know about it,” Associate Women’s Head Golf Coach Jenelle Howland said.
Sophomore Bri Payne teaches the 5-year-old group how to pass back and forth while playing softball.
Sophomore Bri Payne teaches the 5-year-old group how to pass back and forth while playing softball.

Many of the student athletes said they were happy to have the opportunity to teach younger girls about their respective sports too. “It’s not a well-known sport for girls, not a lot of girls are exposed to it,” senior golf player Abby Newton said. “It’s just fun to be with these kids and teach them about our sport, and it’s good to show them about our university.”
Ole Miss joins many other schools across the nation to celebrate the day that focuses on applauding female achievement and participation in sport. Many parents who attended said their daughters enjoyed spending their Sunday with the Rebels.
“They’re great role models and great mentors for these young ladies,” Associate Track Coach Erin Dawson said.
Sophomore Abby Newton observes some putting skills.
Sophomore Abby Newton observes some putting skills.

The girls get a chance to practice their shot with senior Abbey Stanec.
The girls get a chance to practice their shot with senior Abbey Stanec.

Freshman Kenya Wheeler instructs the girls on how to long jump.
Freshman Kenya Wheeler instructs the girls on how to long jump.

– Kayleigh Skinner is a student in the Meek School of Journalism and New Media and a member of the Ole Miss Track team. Kayleigh can be reached at kaskinne@go.olemiss.edu

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