Feb. 6 marked the 33rd annual National Girls & Women in Sports Day (GWSD), a nationwide observance of the achievements of women and girls in sports, particularly at the collegiate level. At Mercyhurst, GWSD is in its eighth year.
The day was held in the Rec Center and invited girls from the local area, grades K-8, to experience the life of a college athlete. The event began in 2012 when Mercyhurst invited 30 young girls to participate. The event has expanded each year since.
The girls can try out all the sports that Mercyhurst offers, with interactive stations run by female student athletes and their coaches.
The event was brought to the Hurst by Bethany Brun, assistant director of Community Engagement and Service Learning. Brun has a special place in her heart for this day.
“I started the event in 2012 because I attended a GWSD event when I was 13 and was introduced to the sport of rowing. I stuck with the sport throughout middle school and high school, and received a scholarship to Mercyhurst to row. I want other girls introduced to unique sports like rowing and to become empowered to pursue athletics in their future,” Brun said.
The day welcomed 150 girls from the local area to Mercyhurst for both the event and the women’s hockey game afterward. Sports offered this year included rowing, soccer, lacrosse, field hockey, volleyball and softball. Even sports that generally require larger or more complex facilities, such as golf, cross country and water polo, got creative to get girls involved indoors.
Sophomore Fashion Merchandising major, Mia D’Amato, who plays on the field hockey team, was one athlete who shared her expertise with the young recruits.
“This is such a great event. Our coach encourages us to take part in this in order to give back to the women of our community. We volunteer our time to teach young girls and their friends the basic skills needed to compete in sports. Running an event such as this one teaches the younger generation of women to be resilient and proud to ‘play like a girl.’”
Sophomore Business and Competitive Intelligence major Emma Scali was also at the event to help out the soccer team.
“Women in Sports Day is a truly enjoyable day, and to see the excitement and enthusiasm that the girls have to take part in the activities is really rewarding,” Scali said.
The current Laker sports teams see the event as a way to build the female athletes of the future by giving them the confidence to consider a sporting career.
“This day is beneficial to our student athletes because it gives our female athletes the opportunity to share their sport. It also gives younger girls the opportunity to see older girls in action, learn about healthy lifestyles and, since female Athletic Training students are present as well, learn about other ways to be involved in athletics. This day is important to me personally because so many girls return year after year and have gone on to pursue these sports in high school, which leads to healthy and active lifestyles,” Brun said.
After the event in the Rec Center, the girls were taken to the ice rink for pizza and the women’s hockey game for Fan Appreciation Day. The girls were also given posters to be signed by the players after the game.
As well as the confidence boost and community aspect, making a personal connection with a sport can open more academic options. It is fair to say that the event brought a lot of joy to the children and the 120 athletes involved.
“Any chance to be able to share and express what soccer has provided for me, and what all sports have provided to athletes here is humbling, and I hope these girls are able to take something away from that,” Scali said.