The Athens Arts, Parks and Recreation department is hosting Breakfast of Champions at the Athens Community Center, 701 E. State St., Saturday morning to celebrate and bring awareness to National Girls and Women in Sports Day.
National Girls and Women in Sports Day is Feb. 5. Breakfast items will be donated from various local businesses such as Tim Hortons, Athens Bread Company, McDonald’s and more. Six renowned speakers who have experience with playing as well as working in female sports will be traveling to Athens to share their stories.
National Girls and Women in Sports Day was signed at the national level in 1987 by President Reagan. In 2019, the Athens Community Center welcomed nearly 200 guests for the first Breakfast of Champions in Athens in celebration of the day, Sowers said. The success inspired the hosts to hold the event again in 2020.
“This is truly a community event,” Laura Sowers, program specialist for the Athens Arts, Parks and Recreation department, said. “Anytime we ask for anything, we’ve never been told no.”
The keynote speaker for the event is Ann Hebert, vice president of global sales at Nike. She’s traveling from the Nike headquarters in Portland to give her speech and bring awareness to the cause. Hebert is an OU alum of the class of 1992 and a former women’s basketball player for OU.
“It’s a funny story, really.” Sowers said. “One day I was getting my 3-year-old ready for school, and he was looking at an OU fall sports preview book. He just so happened to open the page that featured Ann as an alum. I knew then it was a sign that she was supposed to be the keynote.”
Dr. Claire Warren-Russell is also a speaker for the event, and is staying in Athens until Sunday for a free, private viewing of “Maiden,” about a competitive all-female sailboat crew, of which Warren-Russel served as the doctor and a crew member. The documentary plays Sunday at the Athena Cinema, 20 S. Court St., at 3 p.m.
Julie Cromer, the first female director of athletics at Ohio University, will speak at the event. She moved to Athens and joined the OU faculty in fall 2019 all the way from Arkansas.
The list of talented speakers also includes Kermit Blosser, former OU women’s basketball player and Hall of Fame inductee Caroline Mast-Daugherty, 2008 Olympic softball silver medalist Lauren Lappin, 2018 collegiate club cyclocross athlete Jen Malik and 2020 track and field paralympian Brittni Mason.
Erin Helms, program specialist in charge of Athletics and Fitness for the Athens Community Arts, Parks & Recreation department, pointed out the fact that female sports in general do not receive the same attention and credit as male sports.
“This day is important because we want to elevate the awareness of the inequalities in sports currently so that eventually there will be no inequalities,” Helms said.
Ali Johnstone, the OU field hockey coach, will start her third year of coaching OU this season. She highlighted the fact that sports offer several different types of opportunities for girls and women.
“The more we talk about it, the more women of any age will realize the importance sports bring to our lives … the opportunities for growth, the opportunities to mentor and more,” Johnstone said. ”If you can see her, you can be her.”
Johnstone grew up in Canada, where field hockey is quite popular. She has coached the sport at the collegiate level for 10 years and she said she enjoys having a career coaching the game that she loves.
“It’s not a popular sport in the midwest,” Johnstone said. “If they’ve never heard of the game of field hockey, people will fly right by advertisements for it. We’re starting to get a little bit better thinking of avenues on how to promote it.”
Following the Breakfast of Champions event, the OU Coaching Education Club is hosting a youth sports sampler clinic Saturday at 3 p.m. at the Athens Community Center. The sampler is designed to allow children to try the sports of non-contact football, basketball and soccer without having to commit to a program.