On Feb. 1, the Mercyhurst Athletic Department welcomed young female athletes in grades K-8 for the ninth annual Girls and Women in Sports Day (GWSD) at Mercyhurst University.
Throughout the day, the girls could test their abilities at stations from all 12 varsity sports as well as the three club sports: figure skating, cheerleading and the equestrian team. The three club sports attending were a new addition to the event this year.
For Bethany Woods, Assistant Director of Community Engagement and founder of GWSD, a day like this is important in many different ways. Woods believes the event gives young girls role models and something to aspire to. She hopes that it can give them the desire to stick with their sports longer or at least make them stay active and healthy throughout their lives.
Woods believes it is an important day for the Mercyhurst athletes as well, as the day gives them time to enjoy their sports and celebrate them with young kids.
Steph Oemcke, a senior from women’s rowing, agrees with Woods’ sentiments.
“It is a great way to get the community of Erie together in order to cherish and respect the fact that Mercyhurst has so many inspiring female athletes on cam-pus and give the kids someone to look up to,” Oemcke said.
The couple dozen girls who attended the event were able to try different sports, pet a miniature horse from the equestrian team or learn about athletic training for the first two hours of the event. The hard work that the girls put into playing the different sports was rewarded with free pizza, before the event was wrapped up by watching women’s basketball take on Indiana University of Pennsylvania. The girls also got to participate in a relay race at halftime.
When reflecting on the event, Amata Valentini, a sophomore from the women’s soccer team, believes that the GSWD can end up being the reason why girls play a sport in college many years from now.
“It is a good way to show the kids that there are girls who have continued to do their sports through college. This shows the kids that if they start now and keep working, they could end up somewhere like Mercyhurst one day,” Valentini said.
For Emma Nuutinen, a senior on the women’s ice hockey team, the GSWD is a great opportunity to show girls that the sport she plays is not just for boys.
“Ice hockey is not always seen as a girls sport, so my favorite part of the day is when I get girls to try the sport and you can see that they actually enjoy it. I think that is a pretty cool thing.”
When the event at Mercyhurst University is celebrated for the 10th time next year, it will be a year to remember as both girls and athletes will be celebrated in special ways, Woods said.
Woods and all of those involved in GSWD 2020 hoped that they left a lasting impression on the young girls to stay active and healthy through athletics.
Maybe one day some of these girls will be the ones wearing a Laker jersey with pride.