Section: Sports

Ladies share love of the game with local girls

By Nina Zimmerman | Sports Editor

Members of the Ladies basketball team play with local girls as a part of Kenyon's observance of National Women in Sports Day. (Courtesy of Kenyon Athletics)
Members of the Ladies basketball team play with local girls as a part of Kenyon’s observance of National Women in Sports Day. (Courtesy of Kenyon Athletics)

“We are losing,” seven-year-old Zoe Morrison pouted to her mother.

“But you’re having fun, right?” Emily Morrison replied, kissing her daughter’s head before Zoe sprinted back onto the Multi-Activity Court (MAC) of the Kenyon Athletic Center (KAC), where several Ladies soccer players supervised a group game.

Zoe and her younger sister, six-year-old Alexis, were two of more than 120 girls who participated in a free clinic facilitated by members of Kenyon’s women’s varsity athletic teams at the KAC last Sunday, Feb. 8.

The clinic marked Kenyon’s observance of National Women in Sports Day, which serves as a part of an initiative enacted by Congress in 1987 to celebrate and support women’s participation in sports.

“We’ve gone from 20 [participants] the first time to well over 120 this year,” said Head Women’s Soccer Coach Kelly Bryan, who organized the event. “Getting them involved in something is just such a positive thing for these young girls as they’re growing up. We want them to really love it when they’re little and then find an appreciation for it and make it part of their lifestyle as they get older.”

The day included two hours of clinics followed by a reception with snacks and pizza. The participants, divided into groups by age, rotated around to different stations inside the KAC. The stations showcased seven women’s varsity sports: soccer, lacrosse, track and field, softball, field hockey, basketball and volleyball. The clinic was open to girls from kindergarten through eighth grade.

“A lot of these girls are a lot younger, so it’s great that they’re getting introduced to sports so early, just so that they know that it is a fun thing,” field hockey player Anna Petek ’17 said. “I think girls should definitely not be afraid to get into sports and be rugged and athletic.”

For softball player Molly O’Connor ’16, engaging in the community is especially important with the recent financial struggles of local school systems.

“I think it’s a great opportunity for young girls in Mount Vernon, with all of the stuff that’s been going on with their extracurriculars being cut,” O’Connor said. “It’s really fun for us to get to teach little girls how to play a sport that we really love.”

As the girls played, family members and siblings mingled around the edges of the courts, watching and cheering. Sitting on a bench near the edge of the MAC, Emily Morrison explained that she’s already seen participation in sports have a positive influence on her young daughters.

“Sports promote independence in young girls. It builds their self-confidence,” Morrison said. “After a whole season of cheerleading, [Zoe is] still kind of shy, but once she gets started she can function a lot better. And she’s doing better in school and she’s more independent around the house and in the classroom.”

That sense of independence rings true for Zoe’s younger sister as well. Morrison said Alexis became fascinated by the swimming races in the Summer Olympics two years ago and decided she wanted to be a swimmer.

“After watching the Olympics she ended up teaching herself how to swim because she was so determined,” Morrison said.

Though swimming remains Alexis’s favorite sport, she said she liked the basketball station because of the “throwing.”

Sitting next to Morrison, Sarah Yoakam watched her sister, eight-year-old Naomi, run around the court. In their second year participating in the Kenyon clinic, Yoakam said Naomi’s favorite part in years past was the high jump, “because you get to land on a pillow.”

Standing guard at the long jump station, distance runners Natalie Plick ’16 and Sarah-Marie Choong ’17 admired the enthusiasm of the girls as they took turns running and jumping as far as they could into the sand.

“There was a girl in a red shirt who just kept coming back; she wanted to keep doing that,” Choong said.

“It’s nice to see them light up and just have fun doing something as simple as running into a pit of sand,” Plick said. “It’s nice to be reminded of the days when your duty was just to have fun, run around.”

On the edge of the indoor track, Tony Mickley of Danville watched as his seven-year-old daughter Addison worked her way through the stations. Though she already plays basketball and softball, Addison said the day had been a “little hard” so far and her favorite part of the event had been playing volleyball. Jamie Gronberg, whose daughter Grace participated alongside Addison, noticed not just how much fun the girls were having but also the quality of the instruction.

“I’m impressed with the girls who are helping them,” he said. “They’re doing a good job.”

For the student-athletes, Bryan said coaching young girls reminds them of the importance of mentoring and that “somebody made an impact on you and that’s probably why you’re still playing the sport at this point.”

Head Softball Coach Erin O’Neill echoed her sentiment.

“I think it’s important for little girls to have role models and I think college student-athletes are typically some of the best that you can find, especially here at Kenyon College,” O’Neill said.

Up near the entrance to the Tomsich Arena bleachers, Kenyon’s AVI Foodsystems Office Manager Theresa Ewers watched her granddaughters Avery and Laney Kuehner, ages eight and 10, bounce, dribble and pass their way around the stations. Ewers said the clinic also spreads community awareness of different sports, especially ones like lacrosse and field hockey, that are relatively unknown to the area.

“This is fun; this is good,” Ewers said. “Sometimes [kids] don’t even get to try some of this stuff. [My granddaughters] were like, field hockey, lacrosse, what is that? Neither one had ever played anything until this past summer, when they started softball.”

With a big grin, Avery said her favorite sport was basketball. Though it was hard for her at first, Laney latched on to lacrosse.

“Once I got to know lacrosse, it was fun,” Laney said.

Afterwards, Laney and Avery wandered around the steps outside the KAC Theater, trying to collect as many athletes’ signatures as possible on their matching tie-dye t-shirts.


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