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Eckerd’s female athletes pass on encouragement and advice to local female youth for National Girls & Women in Sports Day

By Claire Barnett '27
Published February 15, 2024
Categories: About Eckerd, Athletics, Community Engagement, Public Events, Student Life, Students

Shoes squeak and a basketball thumps loudly on the McArthur Gymnasium floor at the Eckerd College women’s basketball game on Feb. 7. Chants ring out from the sidelines to attempt to pass on strength.

And in the bleachers sits a group of young girls wearing bright pink jerseys, watching what they hope to one day be a part of.

“Women play a powerful role in Athletics,” says Rebecca Clark, Eckerd’s associate director of athletics for internal operations and senior woman administrator. “A lot of times, men’s teams get a lot of fan bases, marketing and support. But women’s teams don’t get as much.”

Clark is a co-creator of how Eckerd celebrates National Girls & Women in Sports Day®, an annual celebration that, according to the Women’s Sports Foundation®, began in 1987 as “a special day in our nation’s capital to recognize women’s sports.” This year, Clark and Amanda Green ’16—Eckerd’s assistant director of athletics, marketing and communications—invited local middle-school-age girls sports teams to campus to see female Tritons in action. They had a meet-and-greet with our women’s softball, soccer, cheerleading and basketball teams and could circulate with the players in the handshake line.

The GRIT club team players enjoyed their time in front of a crowd of basketball fans.

Local girls basketball players and their coach demonstrate their basketball skills.

“My grandma always tells me about how there were no girls sports teams when she was in high school,” recounts junior marine science student Prue Criscuolo, from Charleston, South Carolina. “She got really excited when they started to be a thing. It’s only been 50 years since girls have had not even the same but similar representation. It’s important.”

Enabling young girls to meet women playing their sport and to see female college athletes competing in person confirms that their goals are realistic. In a world where men’s sports dominate, letting young girls see firsthand that they are not the odd ones out can affect the rest of their lives.

Time and time again, women’s sports are pushed to the shadows. Women’s programs aren’t provided equitable equipment and often aren’t taken as seriously. Generally, fewer people show up to support women’s sports, and professional female athletes receive less attention, pay and media coverage than their male counterparts.

National Girls & Women in Sports Day empowers every female athlete. Throughout the years, Clark and Green have set up multiple events to support Eckerd’s women athletes on Feb. 7. “Each year, we do something different for Women in Sports Day,” Clark says. “We’ve had speakers come to talk to our athletes. Last year, some alumni came out, and we had a social event. But this year, we thought it would be cool to include the community.”

Green talks about how sports have impacted her. “Within my career in athletics, there have been so many encouraging women to help guide me and who I’ve leaned on for support. I have also been surrounded by supportive males who have pushed and encouraged me for the power that I have as a woman in athletics.” This encouragement has directed where she decides to go in life. “I have always tried to be supportive and bring out the best in my fellow female athletes—whether teammates, coworkers, students or colleagues in my field.”

The Eckerd College cheer team joined in the celebration.

It’s obvious that sports change women’s lives in many ways—physically, intellectually, socially, psychologically and emotionally. The encouragement they get at a younger age can alter the rest of their lives.

“Being a female athlete, I feel like there’s just not a lot of support behind women in sports,” says Faith Smith, a first-year Eckerd student from Milwaukee, Wisconsin, who plays beach volleyball. “I think it’s nice to show younger kids that there is a path for women in sports at higher levels and give them role models to look up to that are like them.”

Many of Eckerd’s women athletes agree that Clark and Green are doing a good thing each year, helping them have fun celebrating their accomplishments despite societal pushback.

Student-athletes and coaches aren’t the only ones excited about the day. Friends of Associate Head Women’s Basketball Coach Ashton Feldhaus and onlookers at the game, Kendall Spray and Sheahen Dowling, both agree on the importance of this being a nationally recognized day. “It’s good to highlight women in sports,” Sheahen says, “and good to let younger girls see and let them look up to any women in any institution or sport.”

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