In honor of National Girls and Women in Sports Day, women around the world and University of Toledo’s female athletes were celebrated as Wonder Women.
The powerful feminist icon was on display representing the strength of female athletes. The event on Feb. 3 celebrated girls in powerful roles, positively impacting the world and striving to pursue their dreams. It was especially dedicated to women in sports for their relentlessness in sport while pursuing a college career.
“I am in awe about this day,” said Wonder Woman impersonator Tori Thomas. “The women athletics are super heroes within themselves with all their hard work. It’s incredible to see how far women sports have come within the last decade.”
Thomas isn’t the only one to notice how far women in sports have come. Tricia Cullop, head coach of the Rockets women’s basketball team, said her mother had very little opportunity to play sports and played on the all-boys baseball team. She’s grateful for all the opportunities available in sports for girls and hopes it continues to increase.
“The confidence, the teambuilding, the leadership and all the lessons girls learn from playing sports are incredible,” Cullop said. “There has been a lot that has changed in the generation from my mom to me and today is the day to celebrate those changes.”
The UT student athletics department hit the ground running in 2011-2012 with an overall athletic GPA of 3.171. The trend continued in 2012-2013 with an overall GPA of 3.200, in 2014-2015 with a GPA of 3.213, and in 2015-2016 with a 3.235 GPA. The athletic department has a current combined 3.29 GPA for fall semester 2017, the highest department semester GPA in school history. Four out the last five years, the UT athletic department has had the highest GPA in the Mid-American Conference.
Leah Allison, a second-year business accounting major and softball athlete, said despite her hectic schedule, she loves the challenge of pursuing both sports and a college education at once.
“In my opinion, it’s very difficult; you have to have good time management, plan out things ahead of time and talk with professors about when you’re going be gone,” Allison said.
Senior Associate Athletic Director Kelly Andrews said she is highly aware of the hardships student-athletes face, but they must remember to persevere, work hard, be strong, be dedicated and have fun.
“National Girls and Women in Sports Day is an important occurrence,” Andrews said. “It highlights what women and young girls have done through sport. The important thing is to set goals, achieve your goals and when you do hit a road block, that doesn’t mean you can’t find a way to overcome it.”
She added that women in sports have come an extremely long way at all levels, including professional sports, Olympic sports, college sports and high school sports. Women in sports is just part of our culture now. Andrews said women in sports are certainly in a better place now than they were 10 years ago.
Students and other attendees were encouraged to participate by taking photos with athletes and receiving autographs. In honor of this day, videos of UT’s female athletes were played during the Toledo vs. Buffalo game, highlighting their struggles and achievements.
“I was watching the videos yesterday, and I got goosebumps; they’re so inspiring,” said Adam Simpson, marketing promotions and fan experience graduate assistant.
All of UT’s female student-athletes joined three senior girls from the Toledo School for the Arts on the basketball court to sing the national anthem.
“It’s really a cool way to recognize them for their achievements they’ve done in the classroom, community and in sports,” Simpson said.
Assistant coach Jessica Nei, a UT alumna with a master’s in recreation leisure administration, said it was beautiful to see so many young girls look up to our student-athletes.
“It means everything to celebrate what the student-athletes have done and accomplished for the university and be able to be role models for younger girls,” Nei said. “I think we are in a great environment with the university that treats both men and women in sports equally, and that’s a good mentality to have here at UT.”