National Girls and Women in Sports Day (NGWSD) has emphasised the importance of remaining active and discovering inspiration and motivation through physical activity. The day also serves as a reminder to push past any given limits, whether they be based on physical exertion and fitness goals or based on any given gender stereotypes.
The day has been celebrated for more than three decades since it was recognized by Congress in 1987. The philosophy behind the NGWSD is that honoring the qualities which an individual gains through playing sports such as leadership, determination, and self assurance can give girls and women power to push themselves in their personal lives and communities.
The day also recognizes the major benefits of staying healthy through physical activities and devotes purposeful time and thought to expand and inspire that very philosophy. Each year more than 1,000 events take place in the US in which hundreds of thousands of people attend to gain and share insight on being a girl or woman in sports. The “Encourage and Empower” event was one of those programs to take place in Portland on Feb. 1, 2017.
At the “Encourage and Empower” after-school event, each girl from the Portland Tennis and Education (PT&E) program partnered with one of 30 female tennis players attending college in the Portland area who are aptly titled “scholar athletes.” The afternoon was filled with “girl power” activities and games in which the girls from PT&E were given the opportunity to connect with another female athlete who is pursuing sports and her education at a collegiate level.
PT&E writes that their program “exists to strengthen and inspire families to reach their potential. We are dedicated to the academic success and lifelong health of Portland’s underserved youth, supporting them in becoming well-rounded learners, exceptional athletes, and global citizens.” Their purpose is to help young girls who may not have an after-school sport readily available to pursue their talents and future achievements through their program.
Through pairing up each of the athletes from colleges such as University of Portland, Portland State University, and Lewis & Clark College, each girl from PT&E got her chance to engage with a female collegiate athlete, allowing them to see how accessible pursuing a higher education through hard work and their own passions really can be. The personal connection can also be incredibly special for the young girls to have when they do pursue college in the future.
This year’s NGWSD’s theme was “Expanding Opportunity” in an effort to examine and appreciate the immense progress since the creation of Title IX. The purpose of Title IX was to end discrimination based on gender and sex in sports. NGWSD’s website claims that playing a sport as a young girl improves her health, confidence, leadership and academic skills. Still, 60 percent of girls don’t play sports, making this day of honoring and supporting girls and women in sports so important.