As March and Women’s History Month comes to an end, what better way to celebrate this month than with a night for female student athletes to encourage and support one another?
The Girls Night In: Empowering Each Other event, hosted by the EKU Athletic Department, did just that on Monday night. Every female student athlete was invited to attend this first-ever event, held in Alumni Coliseum, to talk about the struggles and the victories of being a female student athlete, while also providing them with the resources and knowledge of the support system they have within the athletic department.
“We want for our student athletes to know that they have this network of people right here that’s available to them and making sure that they utilize it,” said Marina Coleman, an athletic academic advisor for student athletes and the coordinator of this event. “Someone is genuinely there cheering them on.”
The theme of the event was “She competes. She excels. She cares.” For each aspect of that theme, female spokespeople shared their experiences in front of the group. Dr. Sheila Pressley, Dean of the College of Health Sciences, talked about the academic aspect of balancing being a female athlete and a college student.
Coleman and Rachel Park, the senior woman administrator, addressed mental health and the support available inside and outside of the athletic department. Former student athletes Marcella Rocha and Makenna Sullivan also discussed the physical demands of being a student athlete and the challenges that they personally faced in their experiences.
“When you look at the history of athletics, women are just now gaining more recognition, becoming more involved and more competitive in sports,” Sullivan said. “It still remains a challenge to break gender barriers in sports and change how the media perceives female athletes, but I think there has been significant progress.”
The event ended with a yoga session for all the student athletes to take part in.
The inspiration behind this event, Coleman said, was the desire for women’s teams to support one another, both on the court or field and within their social circles. Along with that, with the #MeToo Movement and the different platforms within the media, they wanted female student athletes to know that support is available for them whenever they need it.
Because of Coleman’s position as an athletic academic advisor, she said she gets to see first-hand some of the difficulties that female student athletes face. Of those many difficulties, finding their voice, high anxiety and adapting to a new environment are very prevalent.
Through seeing those frequent struggles day-to-day, Coleman said that she, Park and Monika Banbel, Director of the Bratzke Student-Athlete Academic Success Center, all saw the need for a place for female student athletes to share their stories.
“It’s about helping them find their place where they feel like they belong here at EKU,” Coleman said. “They’re included. They’re a part of the Colonel family. They are loved. They are cared for. We do want them here.”
Natalie Burchesky, a redshirt junior on the beach volleyball team, said she saw the importance of the event as a way for female student athletes to know where they stand, not only within their team but also in the whole community of EKU athletics.
Especially within a male-dominated industry, women need to see how they can have the power within themselves to achieve what they want, Burchesky said.
“Women are taking more and more of an initiative, rightfully so,” Burchesky said. “Having that stance creates more of a positive energy around it all and provides each individual athlete with that power.”
Though it is a month that honors women’s achievements, Coleman said, that encouragement and community need to exist all the time, especially because this world is constantly going to tear women down. It is other women, she said, that should be building each other up.
“We need to highlight our females. We need to uplift our females,” Coleman said. “The resiliency and the grit that they have is something that cannot be taken away by anybody.”