On Saturday, February 3, over 150 girls as young as eight and as old as 14 participated in the inaugural Kingswood Oxford Girls in Sports Day in the newly renovated Hoffman Field House. Young athletes from as near as West Hartford and as far as Ellington, Andover, Tolland and Bolton were joined by Kingswood coaches, staff, and student athletes, all on hand to run small games, teach and practice skills for sports including volleyball, basketball, field hockey, track, strength and conditioning, yoga, lacrosse, tennis and soccer. The house was packed with palpable excitement as participants tried new sports or showed their skills in familiar ones. The only rule for the day: Play. Believe. Achieve.
This year marks the 32nd anniversary of annual National Girls & Women in Sports Day, a national observance celebrating the extraordinary achievements of women and girls in sports. Kingswood Oxford Athletic Director and former UCONN Women’s Basketball player Debbie Fiske began the day by talking with the group about the importance of women in the sports arena, and asking the girls about their favorite female sports figures. She then kicked the activities portion off with a lively icebreaker game of the timeless, but always playfully competitive game: Simon Says.
“I loved the energy the girls were giving to each sport,” said Fiske. So many girls tried a sport hey hadn't done before while others enjoyed a familiar sport in a new setting.” Participants selected their sports and rotated three times in 40-minute durations to different areas where coaches and current Kingswood Oxford players organized small clinics that included reviewing
proper positioning, techniques and movement, as well as running fun competitions and small games. Players were encouraged to step outside their comfort zone and try sports that were new to them. “I was honored to be a part of such an amazing event,” said Abby Eberle ’18, a Kingswood Oxford student-athlete. “Seeing so many young girls working hard, supporting each other and trying new things was uplifting. It was special to have girls come up to me and say, ‘This is really fun!’ or ‘I can't believe I'm able to do this.’ I believe the KO staff and student- athletes that contributed to the day expressed the true meaning of Title IX in the best way and
were able to have blast with the kids at the same time.”
Haley Carangelo ’18 of West Hartford, a member of the varsity lacrosse team, worked with those in her group who had never played lacrosse before. She taught the young athletes how to hold the lacrosse stick, cradle the ball and throw it back and forth with a teammate. “It was a fun day and great to see girls from all ages coming together to learn and celebrate sports,” she said. Fiske said, “It was incredibly rewarding seeing our own KO student-athletes working with the girls and giving their time back through sports that have made such an impact on their lives.”
The day culminated with lunch, poster making and a chance to let participants, coaches, and players interact and converse. Fiske asked the girls about their day and about their thoughts on the significance about being a member of a team. Participation, communication, patience, perseverance, teamwork were a few of the resounding answers.
“The event created an energetic and positive community vibe in which our KO student-athletes empowered the girls attending the event,” said Tricia Watson, KO faculty member and varsity track coach. “Our track program highlighted what it means to work together to build strength and speed. It was simply amazing to see each young athlete run sprints, complete challenges, and end the workout with a relay race. The day was filled with bonding activities that got everyone to laugh, smile, and be proud of each other. The day will be an inspiration for months to come,” she said.
One thing was certain: whether a seasoned player, a novice or somewhere in between, there was no shortage of pride and plenty of smiles as girls celebrated their important place in the sports world. And who knows? As the world watches the opening games of the XXIII Winter Olympics this Friday, keep in mind some of these local young women athletes very well may be on the national stage before long.