by GABRIELLA DEPINHO AND SHANNON GLEBA, Editors
With nine women’s NCAA Division I sports teams on campus, female student-athletes play an important role at Manhattan College. The college’s female athletes work hard to be successful in both the realms of academics and athletics, and are backed by a strong athletic department staff.
Women continue to take the world of athletics by storm, and MC is working further to promote equity for both the male and female athletic teams. Marianne Reilly ‘82, the Director of Intercollegiate Athletics, and Associate Athletic Directors, Whitney Swab and Kathryn Mirance, are all familiar with the work that still needs to be done in order to achieve equality and are doing their part to help.
Reilly is no stranger to college athletics and has a strong reputation as a student-athlete, coach and sports administrator. Reilly broke barriers as a basketball player at Manhattan College, being the first female player at MC to score 1,000 points during her college career, and also the first woman inducted into the College’s Athletic Hall of Fame. She went on to work as both a coach and administrator at the college-level, in addition to being an educator.
In her second year as the first female Director of Intercollegiate Athletics at Manhattan, Reilly is part of a small group of 39 female Athletic Directors at the Division I level. In addition to her efforts for the Athletic Department as a whole, Reilly has been passionate about projects that work towards equality for all genders in athletics. She has worked with Swab and Mirance on a number of projects and events this year in conjunction with female athletic teams and the Women’s Sports Foundation.
The first of these events occurred in Draddy Gymnasium after the women’s basketball game on Jan. 28 in celebration of Girls and Women in Sports Day. MC invited girl scouts, youth teams and anyone in the community who wanted to attend to participate in an event to learn about different sports and to enjoy the day with the Lady Jaspers. All nine female sports programs helped organize the event with the athletics department, and the day was a huge success.
“Each team took a station and they were able to make it their own and do what they really wanted to do,” said Swab.
For example, the women’s volleyball team set up a station where the young children were able to measure the vertical height of their jump, the women’s rowing team had their indoor rowing machines for the children to try and the swimming and diving team set up a relay race with their equipment.
“We really let the student-athletes take ownership of what they wanted to do and how they wanted to interact,” said Swab.
The feedback of the event from the athletes was very positive; athletes had a good time, were reminded of the empowerment they felt through sports and of their hopes for the future generations of girls in sports.
Senior athlete Maggie Tebbetts was there working the station the rowing team set up. The team took out two of its practice machines and had them set up side-by-side and offered the young kids at the event the opportunity to “race” each other.
“It was really cool to see all the kids racing each other and ask about the sport and ask about the other sports and playing games,” said Tebbetts. “I just think it’s really important that a young age, that young girls and boys see that people our age are still involved in sports.”
The swimming team set up a relay race for kids to participate in, similar to a relay race they organized during the Relay For Life event last year. Senior Eileen Blood was there the day of the event and helped facilitate the race and felt the event was both fun and important.
“It was so much fun,” said Blood. “It was cool seeing all the teams get together in the gym. I think [events like this] are always important to have to raise awareness for women and all the inequalities.”
Tebbetts shared her hopes that young girls would get involved in sports as she found sports to be empowering throughout her life.
“As a female in athletics, all of [being involved in sports] is empowering because there’s a stigma – not as much anymore – that sports are for men so playing sports as a women was empowering,” said Tebbets.
She continued, “I hope that young girls try [sports] out and don’t get discouraged by the media because sports are really great.”
Blood shared a similar sentiment, hoping that young girls would find encouragement through the achievements of female college athletes like herself.
“I would love for us to be role models, that they see us in college and that we can still do it and that we’re taken seriously and I think for young girls that could be something to aspire to,” said Blood.
The athletic administrators also believe the event was a success and hope to continue to offer meaningful programs for young athletes.
Reilly said, “Little boys and little girls will come to any event that we have, but if we start targeting the youth, I think that is where our future lays, so certainly we want to expose them to inside the gates at Manhattan College.”
Feb. 7 was the 32nd annual National Girls and Women in Sports Day, and the athletic department helped to celebrate and draw awareness. Maddie Arndt, a member of the women’s Track and Field team and President of the Student-Athlete Advisory Committee (SAAC), had the idea to organize a video centered around Title IX.
After presenting the idea to Reilly, they were able to get other female athletes involved in order to promote fairness in sports and awareness. Title IX is a federal law passed in 1972 which states: “No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving federal financial assistance.”
The video showed female athletes reciting the law and was posted to the athletic department social media pages and shared by many of the women’s sports programs. The fairness in play under this federal law allows female athletes the same rights as their male counterparts and is the basis for many efforts towards equity.
This equality for women in sports is of the utmost importance to Kathryn Mirance, Associate Athletic Director and Senior Woman Administrator.
As a former student-athlete, Mirance said, “It wasn’t until afterwards on the administrative side that I saw how much went in to all aspects of being a student athlete that I didn’t have the respect or understanding for earlier. I think there has definitely been a huge upswing in equity and I think a lot of women’s teams are getting more screen-time or spotlight-time than they have in the past. And that is huge and tremendous and that goes to our student-athletes being active in the community but also with the evolution of female administrators in college athletics, there are a lot more than there ever has been.”
This increase in female administrators is apparent at MC, as three of the six senior athletic administrators are women.
While the annual National Girls and Women in Sports Day may have passed, the Jaspers are continuing to raise awareness throughout the remainder of February. MC was chosen by the Women’s Sports Foundation to host a “Candid Conversation” with two champion female athletes on Feb. 26 at 6:00 p.m.
Angela Hucles, a gold medal soccer olympian, and Holly Lindvall, Vice President of Human Resources for the New York Mets will present a workshop in Smith Auditorium to all who wish to attend. The presentation and interactive workshop will be centered on how the lessons learned as an athlete will be beneficial when joining the workplace.
The idea of using skills learned in athletics to succeed after college align very well with Mirance’s goal at Manhattan College. She said, “Having gotten the opportunity to be the Senior Administrator last May, I really want to improve our programming for our student-athletes and make sure that we are giving them the tools, the resources and the experiences that they need to be successful when they leave [MC].”
The recent events and efforts of the student-athletes and administrators at MC are helping to pave the way for more success of girls and women in sports.
When asked the best advice she could give for young girls hoping to become more involved in sports, Reilly said, “I think the kids today are so over-programmed. I think it is good that they try many sports, don’t specialize as a little kid in one sport. It’s wonderful, but sometimes when you’re a volleyball player, you might be a really good rower. Or if you’re a rower, you could be a really good volleyball player. So, try all those things out when you’re young.”