More than 50 girls and young women from grade schools throughout Greater Boston packed the pools and jammed the courts of the Malkin Athletic Center this past Saturday (Feb. 2) for Harvard’s ninth annual National Girls and Women in Sports Day (NGWSD) event. Between the sounds of splashed water, whacked volleyballs, and the gymnasium echo of squeaking sneakers, some important life lessons could also be heard, courtesy of Harvard’s finest female student-athletes and their coaches.
The three-hour event, sponsored by the Harvard-Radcliffe Foundation for Women’s Athletics, included rotating clinics in volleyball, soccer, basketball, and water polo. By day’s end, the young participants from Allston-Brighton, Charlestown, East Boston, and Roxbury received a certificate of participation, free tickets for a Crimson women’s hockey game, and an opportunity not only to try out some new sports, but to build confidence through participation and teamwork.
“Some of these young women don’t get out two blocks from their own neighborhood,” offered volleyball coach Jennifer Weiss, who has volunteered at the event every year since her arrival at Harvard in 1993. “This is an opportunity for them to know what’s available – to see our athletes and the comradery of a team.” Senior water polo co-captain Christine Meiers imparted a similar wisdom. “Since I love the sport so much, I like to expose it to young women as a confidence builder.” An apparently unnecessary lesson for Woodrow Wilson School seventh-grade basketball nut Chantel Payne, who made no apologies for her motivation in attending this year’s event, expressing her desire to “Get good at it.”
And even as the official theme of this year’s NGWSD – “Celebrating 30 Year’s of Title IX” – may have been lost on many of the young participants, the day’s indisputable message, fun aside, was voiced loud and clear from Harvard freshman water polo player Bridget Deacon, who kindly commanded four young swimmers to “Make a splash.”