On February 8th, Bates celebrated the 34th annual National Girls and Women in Sports Day by hosting a multi-sport clinic for young girls, encouraging them to express themselves and empower themselves through sport. With a number of Bates’ female student-athletes in attendance, the girls received one-on-one instruction and coaching in sports like softball, rowing, volleyball, and numerous others. In addition to the free sports clinic, those who attended were also able to watch Bates Women’s Basketball earn a huge win over Trinity. The Bobcats earned a hard fought 54-50 win, fuelled by 22 points from Meg Graff ’22, as well as clutch performances from Ariana Dalia ’22 and Mia Roy ’22 down the stretch.
Mary Corcoran ’22, a cross-country and track and field runner (also a part of the school record holding 4x800m relay), was one of many Bates female student-athletes in attendance to help out with the clinic. In describing the celebration of NGWSD in her own words, Corcoran said, “I would say the goal of the day as a whole was to promote female participation and empowerment in athletics. The clinic itself was a great way to get local girls from the community together to connect both with female collegiate athletes and each other. It was awesome to see them try new things, learn about new sports, and just talk to and learn from female athletes to see all the possibilities they have to look forward to.”
Senior Associate Director of Athletics, Celine Cunningham, added on the goals of the clinic and NGWSD as a whole, “The mission of NGWSD is to inspire girls and women to play and be active. The confidence, strength and character gained through sports participation are the very tools girls and women need to become strong leaders in sports and life. We wanted to expose young girls in our community to Bates student-athletes so that they can see them as role models and something to aspire to…It was also important to have our student-athletes recognize the impact they have on young girls. We also wanted to be able to build community in our student-athletes to celebrate and support one another.”
Cunningham is a former college athlete herself, and knows the importance of exposing girls to sports first-hand. On the subject, she said, “I strongly believe that sports give you skills well beyond the field/court/track that help define the person you are…I believe my experiences as a student-athlete have helped shaped me, and I am beyond thankful for the women that inspired me and were my role models in my athletic journey. My experiences definitely drew me to a career in athletics.”
Having been an athlete essentially all of her own life, Corcoran also recognized the importance of being exposed to sports early in her life, citing her family’s athletic background as a motivating factor for her athletic career, “I grew up in a household where everyone played multiple sports and my mom was a three-sport athlete through high school and college so I always had her as a strong female role model to look up to. I do remember clearly staying after my brothers’ lacrosse games to watch the older girls teams play, as I aspired to be like them and continue playing sports at a higher level when I got older. My youth soccer coach also used to bring us to Boston College women’s Soccer games as a team in elementary school which definitely motivated and energized me to continue playing and planted the seed for my dream of participating in college athletics.”
Corcoran was quick to note that being able to see women competing on some of the biggest stages, especially as a young athlete, was “super powerful…especially because most professional sports you watch are men’s.” She added, “To think that my small interaction with those girls could have the impact that I felt when watching older female athletes play as a young girl is really incredible.”
The ability for Corcoran and other Bates female student-athletes to serve as role models for younger girls falls directly in line with the theme of this year’s NGWSD: Lead Her Forward. In providing both access to sports and coaching, as well as excellent role models, young girls are encouraged to ‘achieve excellence and realize their potential’ in athletics, as well as in life in general. By providing the platform here at Bates and in other places around the country, young girls are able to acquire the skills through sport that will allow them to become strong leaders in all facets of life.
Corcoran hopes that she and the women of Bates athletics were able to achieve just that. When asked about what she wanted the girls to get out of the clinic and game, she replied, “I hope that girls who attended this event were able to see the amazing opportunities that they have to participate in athletics and that they could see themselves in us in some way. I hope that they were able to connect with one another and bond over their excitement for sports and that they were given a new energy and motivation to continue to work hard and play!”
As a senior athletic administrator, Cunningham also had a similar vision for what she hoped the girls got out of the event, saying, “I believe if you can see it you can be it. Our student-athletes were excited to work with these young girls and I am sure they made a lasting impact – we hope to see some as future Bobcats but definitely future athletes! I am so proud of the work from our coaches and student-athletes – they made the day a huge success.”