February is the month to celebrate women, girls in sport

Feb. 7 is the 32nd annual National Girls and Women in Sports Day and the theme for this year is “Play Fair, Play IX.”

Title IX ensures that students receive educational opportunities free from discrimination based on gender. It is a concise law — just 37 words — that has greatly expanded opportunities for females in sport. However, many schools across the country still do not provide equal opportunities for girls to participate in sports and of course, funding is usually always skewed in favor of men’s sports.

Notwithstanding, the month of February is a time to celebrate the extraordinary achievements that females have made in sports and also the positive influence that sport and athletic participation has had on the lives of many girls and women. The NGWSD recognizes the ongoing efforts that are under way towards equality and access for women in sports and the nation’s commitment to expand sport participation opportunities for all girls and women in the future.

The NGWSD began in 1987 as a special day to recognize women’s sports. The day united premiere organizations and elite female athletes to bring national attention to the promise of girls and women in sports. It also served s a remembrance for Flo Hyman, the Olympic volley ball player who died of Marfan’s syndrome in 1986. Annually, NGWSD is celebrated across all 50 states with community-based events, award ceremonies and celebratory activities.

Part of the effort to raise awareness and equality in women’s sport resides in the S.H.E Network. S.H.E. stands for Sports, Health and Education. Much of the work performed by S.H.E. deals with advocacy, coaching, leadership and women’s sport. The Sports Advocacy Network continues to be a driving force for diversity and inclusion in the athletic workplace (coaches, trainers, teachers) as a collective voice for women in sport.

The other part of the celebration has to do with the positive effects of sports participation in the lives of women and girls.

In individual sports, a sense of accomplishment, self-esteem and self-confidence can be engendered. In team sports, a sense of team play, co-operation and leadership skills can be enhanced.

Many successful female athletes have gone on to hold positions of authority and power in society and business in some ways attributable to the skills and lessons that they learned while participating in sports and athletic pursuits. I, myself, successfully competed in two sports and gained national recognition in both women’s bodybuilding and women’s powerlifting. These are individual sports that taught me discipline, tenacity and goal setting, and well as other valuable sports specific knowledge.

As with most things on Kauai, we have a great deal of local talent, be it sports, creative undertakings, music or entrepreneurial endeavors.

We seem to attract many people in all types of pursuits who are recognized nationally for their accomplishments and for their contributions to their undertakings.

This coming month February, I am hosting my usual TV program on Hoike Channel 54 and will be interviewing three female athletes for various sports that are well represented on Kauai. Please tune in a 6 (ish) a.m., noonish, and or 6 p.m. (ish) every weekday throughout February, to hear and see my interview with Abi Stearns, nationally ranked fitness physique champion, and her two daughters Sadie and Aleya, who compete in swimming and obstacle course competitions respectively.

Abi has a keen interest in girls and women’s sport and enjoys coaching the dryland aspect of the girls’ Kauai aquatics team as well as those who are interested in physique competitions. She has successfully competed in physique competitions for several years.

Her daughter Sadie is 14 and has been competing with other swimmers her age for six years. Her specialty is long distance free style in which she placed third in the recent mile event at the state level. Sadie apparently also has a very solid butterfly style as well.

Aleya, age 17, started off interested in swimming but switched her focus to hybrid training about three years ago. She took first in her teen age bracket for the last two years in the Spartan race on Oahu and enjoys training in various modalities, especially those with an element of adventure.

Both young women participate and compete at the state and national level with the Junior Lifeguard Program, itself a very demanding and competitive undertaking that is a division of The National Lifeguard Association.

Please join us for a look at women’s and girl’s sport on Kauai and help celebrate our own exceptional female athletes.

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Dr. Jane Riley, EdD., is a certified personal fitness trainer, nutritional adviser and behavior change specialist. She can be reached at janerileyfitness@gmail.com, 212-8119 cell/text, www.janerileyfitness.com

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