It’s the 25th annual National Girls and Women in Sports Day, a time when athletes, coaches, recreation directors, parents, students, sponsors, and educators across the country (maybe globe) will celebrate under the theme “Play, Believe, Achieve.”
Well most besides the Chicago Sky, which had to cancel and event due to the snowstorm blanketing the Midwest. It’s sunny but chilly in Seattle, so the Storm is going ahead with a private event this evening to announce a partnership with the Women’s Sports Foundation’s local GoGirlGo! program. Under independent ownership, the team is re-establishing its Seattle Storm Foundation and received a grant from GoGirlGo! to host a curriculum where owners, CEO/President Karen Bryant and possibly players will participate.
The initiative targets sedentary girls not already involved in athletics. GoGirlGo! has already given away $100,000 in grants since being established locally in January 2010 and aims to reach 2,300 young girls in King, Pierce, and Snohomish counties by September 2011.
At tonight’s event, director Sheri Gazitt said young athletes will be celebrated while Storm coach Brian Agler will speak about why he got involved in women’s athletics. Gazitt, who relocated from Texas 13 years ago, played softball as a youth but was more into recreational sports as an adult. Now she has three children, who keep active through GoGirlGo!
Agler, a college basketball player, told reporters last season that he stumbled into coaching women’s basketball. He currently has a daughter who plays high school ball in Ohio, dreaming of coaching her someday soon.
“A couple years out of college, I was coaching at a junior college in Oklahoma,” said Agler of his start. “After my first year there as a men’s assistant the athletic director there ask me if I had interest in the women’s job there.
“At first I thought, ‘Well, if I take the women’s job, I might have a quicker chance to get on full-time faculty.’ So I said, ‘Yeah, I’ll take it.’ Then it’s just like anybody, you’re a competitor and you want to do well and you recruit and you coach and then you build your network and it ends up what it ends up…Here I am.”
Hearing Agler’s story, which ended last season in him coaching the Storm to the 2010 WNBA championship and winning Coach of the Year honors, reminded me of my own. My father was a basketball coach, serving as an assistant for the 1997 NCAA Arizona championship team. When I began my journalism career, I always thought I’d cover men’s sports.
My first assignments were covering the Wildcats, watching former Stanford star Kate Starbird stroll through McKale Center and tear the place up with her three-pointers. Current Seattle University coach Joan Bonvicini was the first I covered full-time at Arizona and former Storm standout Adia Barnes was the first “local” star to open my eyes to the women’s game. (I liked current official Brenda Pantoja as a player, but she wasn’t that great)
Like Agler, when I relocated to Seattle, I was offered the chance to cover the Storm while backing up the Sonics and a passion for women’s pro hoops blossomed. I had no idea I could write well enough for anyone to want to read the copy, nor serve a purpose in giving women the same respect as a journalist that men receive unconsciously.
Being around athletes reminds me about health and the joy in life. That there’s always another game, day or way to improve. It’s a way to bring people of all cultures together and teaches so much, even though I still need to learn how to lose gracefully.
I’ll never understand why girls and women are still held back in athletics, especially since its lessons of strength and health are needs for all people. And I’ll never understand why we’re still paid less for doing the same job as a man, professional athletics aside. But on this day, I’d like to celebrate all of those who don’t care and still participate in some fashion for the love of sport. I’d also like to think my idol Robin Roberts for telling me to “Go For It!!” and paving the path to do just that.