“I don’t know who feels better, these kids or our kids who get to feel like rock stars,” said Mike Richmond, coach of the University of Nevada, Reno swimming and diving team, as he watched a half-dozen young women from his squad help crowds of children try on flippers and swimming caps.
This year’s annual Girls and Women in Sports Day, held Saturday at Lawlor Events Center, drew throngs of parents and their children — mostly girls and a few boys, up to middle school age — to sample the range of sports available at the university as demonstrated by the young men and women who play for the Wolf Pack. Members of the football, soccer, volleyball, swimming, golf and rifle teams played catch, throw, bump and putt with their young admirers, hoping to leave an impression in their youthful minds.
“Overall, it keeps you on track for life,” said Vanessa Van Muyden, an 18-year-old UNR freshman from Woodland, Calif., who is an outside hitter for the Wolf Pack volleyball team. She and several teammates said their experiences playing sports have contributed to their senses of competitiveness, teamwork, confidence and work ethic.
“When you’re on scholarship, it’s like a job,” said Grace Anxo, a 20-year-old UNR sophomore from Reno who also plays Wolf Pack volleyball. “They’re paying you to be here. Our sport is our job.”
This year’s Girls and Women in Sports Day coincided with the 100th anniversary of the Girl Scouts of America and the 40th anniversary of Title IX, the 1972 federal law requiring gender equality in college athletics. The sentiments expressed by girls and women at Lawlor on Saturday indicate that in many ways the progress achieved during the “women’s lib” movement of the 1960s and 1970s did its job, but in other ways women still must fight harder on any field of play.
David and Monica Sempel, who brought their 10-year-old daughter Sydney to UNR on Saturday, said there is nothing but support and encouragement for young girls to play sports in their town. While mom and dad said their daughter’s participation in sports has helped her learn to work hard and deal with winning and losing, Sydney said she doesn’t just get something out of sports.
“I get out my anger,” the rambunctious 10-year-old said after playing catch with some Wolf Pack football players.
Kevin and Tami Price, of Reno, brought their children Madison, Brandon and Lauren to their second Girls and Women in Sports Day this weekend. Kevin said he thinks seeing the collegiate athletes inspired his children to work hard at all the sports they play.
“It seems as if when they fail, they push harder to succeed, whether it’s in school or with chores,” Kevin said about how his children’s athletic endeavors have helped them in life.
A report titled “Her Life Depends On It: Sport, Physical Activity and the Health and Well-Being of American Girls,” from the Women’s Sports Foundation, says girls’ access to facilities, scholarhips and social support is no longer the main issue. Today, the concern is that girls do not have full access to educational, social and health benefits that sports and physical activity can provide.
“Increasingly, the debate is not so much about equal gym time as it is about a healthy lifetime,” the report states. “Sport is about a great deal more than fun and games.”
For those children who take their athletics to a higher level, college offers a chance for travel, meeting new people and getting an education that will benefit them long after their playing days are over. The women of the Wolf Pack volleyball team said the competitiveness and drive they take onto the court will help them after graduation.
“You have to have confidence as a female in a man’s world,” said 19-year-old Bonnie Paul, a freshman at UNR from Fresno, Calif. “To get the attention of men you have to exude confidence. Sports definitely helps that.”