The Bengals may have lost, but there are still plenty of Athens names to cheer for. Feb. 1 marks the celebration of National Girls and Women in Sports Day. Women in sports are often put into categories and breaking stigmas can be very difficult for both active and former athletes who love their sport.
Discrimination on and off the field can be common. According to Title IX Schools, 90% of universities’ intercollegiate athletic departments do not meet the standards set by Title IX. Additionally, they found women miss out on $1 billion in athletic scholarships each year.
The same report found that not only do women not get the same number of opportunities as men, but they lack even more if opportunities were distributed equally. As women make up a larger percentage of the student population, the report argued they should be given more opportunities just to reach equal standing.
The holiday offers the opportunity for women to reflect on the importance of their sport and why they play it as well as acknowledge common experiences they may have felt relating to discrimination.
Emma Perry, a freshman studying media arts production, said she played rugby all throughout high school and wanted to continue playing the sport when she got to college.
She said that although she has tried almost every sport she could think of, rugby was the sport that really stood out to her and made her feel like she was a part of a family. She said she was also always interested in football, but a lack of opportunity for female football players helped her transition to rugby too.
“Rugby really is the one that I fell in love with, it's the one that kind of fit everything for me,” she said.
Perry said that rugby is a sport focused on community and culture more than anything else.
Being close to her teammates has always been essential and she said she has been able to find her family here at Ohio Uuniversity because of the rugby team on campus, she said.
Perry said no matter how talented the girls were, they were always very welcoming and wanted everyone to feel like they were part of the team.
“(They may be) one of the more experienced girls on the team, but they still treat me the same as anyone else and I really appreciate it,” she said.
Perry said being a woman in sports meant a lot to her since it is such a male heavy industry. She said both as an athlete and a sports videographer, Perry has encountered others “mansplaining” the sports she covers or plays countless times, which she said is aggravating.
“It’s just important to have that representation,” she said. “Even if it's LGBT people, people that don't identify as a woman but are outside of that mold of being a male, it's important to have that diversity.”
Wylie Lytle, a freshman majoring in political science, said this year was her first year playing rugby on Ohio’s club team.
She said she decided to join rugby because her dad played when he went to OU and she liked the idea of carrying on the legacy.
“I'm not the most athletic person, but it's been a really good way to stay active and meet new people,” she said.
Lytle said being a woman in sports allows her to break out of the shell that is expected of women, especially playing such a rough contact sport.
“It's such an aggressive (sport), and I guess some people would call it unladylike. So, it's nice to break out of norms of what's expected as a woman,” she said.
Lytle said an example of injustice she saw playing the sports was when the team ordered new uniforms with alumni funding and all of the gear ended up coming in kids sizes while the real order never came. She said she was very frustrated when the girls ended up having to share uniforms with the mens team instead of getting their own gear.
Despite this, she said she urges every girl on campus to play for the rugby team because she said it is a great community where people can really grow closer to their teammates. The rugby team is also open to anyone who feels as if women’s rugby is the place that best fits their identity. The team refers to themselves as a womxn’s team to encompass both women and anyone else who fits their team.
Jordan Hawkins, a sophomore studying child and family studies, said she has played softball almost her entire life and she really loved the bond she was able to create with her teammates.
Hawkins said being a woman in sports was very meaningful to her because it gave her a sense of empowerment and strength.
“It means to me that I am strong and powerful, and I am just as good as everyone else,” she said.
Hawkins said in high school she often felt like the boys baseball team got a lot more attention even though the softball team was often better and won more games, which she felt was very unfair.
She said she urges all young girls to join sports in order to build their confidence.
“I think it's so important for young girls to join sports to be able to show that they’re tough and strong and for them to build that team camaraderie,” Hawkins said. “That's the biggest thing I feel like: to show how to support each other and not have women tear each other down or also to not let other people tear them or their teammates down as well.”