Since 1987, the Women’s Sports Foundation has traveled to our nation’s capital to advocate and celebrate women and girls in sports. This year a coalition of champion athletes and leaders in the women’s sports community joined together on February 3rd to honor the 30th annual National Girls & Women in Sports Day (NGWSD) in Washington, D.C.
NGWSD is a yearly observance celebrating the extraordinary achievements of girls and women in sports. Thousands of schools, coaches, sports educators, recreation directors, association members, parents and students participated in local events across all fifty states to celebrate NGWSD and this year’s theme, “Leading the Way.” The theme acknowledges all those individuals and organizations who are on the front line for girls and women in sports.
On the eve of NGWSD, members of the NGWSD Coalition (the National Women’s Law Center (NWLC), the President’s Council on Fitness, Sports & Nutrition (PCFSN) and Girls Inc.) participated in a round table at the White House, where they discussed equal opportunities for women and girls in sports with key Obama Administrators like Valerie Jarrett, Senior Advisor to the President. Following the round table, WSF President Angela Hucles, along with fellow NGWSD coalition members, met with the Office of the U.S Surgeon General, the Office on Women's Health, and leaders from the Office for Civil Rights to further delve into the role of sports on girls and women’s wellbeing and the importance of Title IX.
On the morning of February 3, champion athletes and coalition leaders convened on Capitol Hill to host a briefing panel. This panel focused on issues surrounding equal access to sports and strategies to overcoming barriers, particularly in underserved and minority communities.
“Today we want to acknowledge that progress has been made in gender equality in U.S. sports. However, it remains uneven. It is urban communities and girls of color who are being left behind,” said Hucles.
The 2016 NGWSD agenda focused on minority groups, African-American and Hispanic girls in particular, who are at a greater disadvantage for participation opportunities. The benefits of access to sports for young women are tremendous: increased confidence and higher self-esteem, a more positive body image, better overall physical health and lower rates of obesity, better grades in school, a higher graduation rate and a greater likelihood to attend college.
The WSF report “Go Out and Play: Youth Sports in America” illustrates that African-American and Hispanic girls are doubly hit by both gender and race disparities in sports. Girls in these demographics are less likely to play sports than boys and less likely to play sports than their Caucasian peers. They also enter sports at a later age and drop out earlier. NGWSD is an opportunity to highlight these disadvantages and focus on the steps we still need to make to provide all girls access to sports, as well as celebrate how far we have come.