PLAY. BELIEVE. ACHIEVE.
Spring 2011 Issue | By Andrew Taylor
Hundreds of girls in bright pink T-shirts, herded and helped by scores of women in bright purple T-shirts, seem excited by all of it - the rodeo roping, rock-wall climbing, hockey, tennis, line dancing, badminton, volleyball, basketball, kayaking, fencing, soccer, racquetball, softball and other activities played out in three 45-minute sessions.
It's the 12th annual Idaho State University version of National Girls and Women in Sports Day, held this year on Feb. 5, and Reed Gymnasium and the ISU Campus Recreation Center are full of sporting activities for girls in kindergarten through sixth grade.
"There's nothing like this where I come from," says Karen Lowe, a resident of Franklin, near the Utah border, who has driven more than hour to enroll her daughter, Haylee, one of the more than 400 girls who participated in this year's version. "It is something my daughter looks forward to every year. It is just cool. She'd never normally get a chance to play hockey. This is her third or fourth year, and she wants to come again next year."
While Lowe's daughter was playing hockey at one end of the ISU Campus Recreation Center, 11-year-old Erica Peterson of Pocatello, was repelling down the climbing wall at the other end of the center.
"I beg my mom to go," Peterson said. "There's a lot of sports here you can get active with."
And get active the girls do - were table tennis, yoga, track-and-field and swimming already mentioned?
"For a lot of these girls, they're trying new activities, and it is amazing to see how anxious and excited they are to learn and participate," said Emily Klein, one of the three main ISU student coordinators for the event, and one of nearly 200 volunteers who help pull it off. "They're all just saying 'when do we start' and are excited to try new things. It's just fun to see the excitement."
But the National Girls and Women in Sports Day (NGWSD) transcends the momentary fun and its benefits lasts long past the camp finale when the girls gather in the main gym and give boisterous adieu to the time they've had.
"There is virtually a sea of little girls, all in matching shirts, that are thrilled to participate and meet ISU women student athletes and our other volunteers," said Cynthia Pemberton, associate dean of the ISU Graduate School, and a co-founder, primary organizer and mentor for this event in Pocatello. "The energy and the excitement is just amazing, but the event can help the girls accomplish much bigger things than just learning to hit a tennis ball or to climb."
The event - which has attracted more than 3,000 participants through the years - features concrete role models for the girls to emulate.
"The girls interact with ISU student athletes and it helps them recognized that they can be an athlete, too, and they can go to college," Pemberton said. "This is a message a lot of these girls don't get every day. They make concrete interactions and role-modeling connections with these ISU female students and student athletes and this is very valuable."
The event has been run long enough now that girls who attended the ISU NGWSD event while in grade school have moved on to attend ISU as students.
"For the girls, it has great impacts for them," said Tymeron Smith, another ISU graduate student event leader. "When they see women leaders from the time they check in to the time they leave, it shows them they can go to junior high, high school or college and be a leader in any activity that they want to, not just athletics. They can learn different traits and skills here and grab knowledge."
The benefits don't flow one-way, only from the volunteers to the girl participants: coordinating and putting on this large event is beneficial to the volunteers who make it happen.
"It's extremely useful for the leadership team of female students who get experience organizing, planning, setting up volunteer commitments, doing risk management assessments and doing marketing for the event," Pemberton said. "It is an excellent service-learning experience and a powerful and empowering experience for the leadership team."
Former ISU students who have graduated from ISU and who have been involved with Girls and Women in Sports Day have helped create similar events at other colleges, modeling those activities after ISU's event.
"In this sense, this event is truly a self-generative model," Pemberton said.
The event is sponsored by various ISU entities including the Idaho State University Physical Education Major's Club - SHEPERD's (Students of Health Education, Physical Education, Recreation and Dance), the College of Education, the Graduate School, the Department of Sport Science and Physical Education, Health and Nutrition Sciences, the Janet Anderson Gender Resource Center, Campus Recreation and the ISU Athletic Department. Another primary sponsor is the Girl Scouts of the Silver Sage Council.
"About 188 volunteers and 400 girls, and everybody is at the same place at the same time involved in an assortment of activities, moving from one place to another," Klein said at the event. "And nobody has been lost or seriously hurt, and they all seem to be having fun. It's amazing."
And it will be amazing next year, too.