This One’s for the Girls

Loyola’s Women in Sports Day brings together student-athletes, coaches, and girls from the local community to promote gender equality in sports

By Claire Hoffman, '07  |  Photos courtesy of Loyola Athletics

Deirdre and Bridget Roos might be the biggest fans of Greyhounds women’s athletics. The girls—ages 10 and 7, respectively—are the daughters of Loyola speech pathology professor Brianne Roos, ’01, M.S. ’04, and have been cheering on the women’s soccer and lacrosse teams for years.

“My daughters look up to the Loyola athletes. We always sit in the front row at Ridley [Athletic Complex],” says Roos. “We pregame by making fancy signs with friends to cheer for [the girls’] favorite players. They love to out-cheer the SuperFans.”

National Girls & Women in Sports Day was created for girls like Deirdre and Bridget. Celebrated annually across 50 states, the event began in 1987 as a remembrance of the late Olympic volleyball player Flo Hyman. It aims to honor the accomplishments of female athletes, shine a spotlight on the struggle for gender equality in sports, and, most of all, inspire the next generation.

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Open to children in kindergarten through eighth grade, Loyola’s Women In Sports Day aims to engage and inspire the next generation of athletes.

Every school and community celebrates in a slightly different way, with sports clinics, student-athlete dinners, and more. The Loyola edition, which is abbreviated to Women in Sports Day and often just referred to as WISD (pronounced “wizz-dee”), started in 2003 and was the brainchild of Therese “Teddi” Burns, ’86, a former Loyola student-athlete who now serves as the University’s associate director of athletics.

“[The Loyola event is] is an opportunity for the participants to meet our athletes in a no-pressure situation and get to know them a little bit—to find out that they are just like them, and that someday they could play at the college level or reach whatever their goals are,” Burns explained.

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An annual tradition, WISD participants gathered at center court during halftime of the women’s basketball game for a group photo. This year’s event drew roughly 600 girls.

The 2017 Women in Sports Day was held on January 28 in Reitz Arena, and drew roughly 600 girls.

Open to children in kindergarten through eighth grade, the free event featured a superhero theme; there was a bitmoji-style superhero named “Wizdee,” and girls decorated wrist cuffs and capes and made lists of their own superpowers.

Loyola athletes shared their experiences and signed autographs, and led balloon-making and face-painting stations, group photo shoots, an ice-cream social, and more. The day also included a women’s basketball game against Lafayette College.

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Loyola student-athletes sign autographs, paint faces, and talk to the girls about being a female college athlete during Women In Sports Day.

This year’s event also marked the first for which WISD had a major donor, mother-and-daughter pair Jane C. Kimmel and Jane C. Hogge, ’83. The two are longtime fans of Loyola athletics, and their support had a meaningful impact on the day.

Burns said Women in Sports Day at Loyola has a few different missions: to develop female leaders, to teach girls the importance of working with others to achieve their goals, and to build confidence and inspire girls to strive for excellence. “It also gets potential Loyola students and their parents on our campus,” she noted.

The annual event is planned by Burns and two other Loyola athletics department employees: scheduling assistant Rosina Koehn, ’08; and assistant director for marketing and sales Melissa Hassen. The planning process typically begins by setting a theme, recruiting the athletes, and getting the word out to local youth groups, schools, and other organizations.

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Teddi Burns, ’86, associate director of Greyhounds athletics, poses with two fans.

“Teddi Burns and her staff deserve all the praise for this special day,” Jim Paquette, director of athletics, said. “It is Teddi’s vision and her staff’s execution that makes WISD a special day for everyone involved. I’ve heard student-athletes call it their favorite day of the year.”

Jen Adams, head coach of Loyola women’s lacrosse, echoed that statement. “Our team loves WISD and looks forward to it each year.”

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During the day participants had a chance to pose with Loyola’s mascot, Iggy.

“We always talk about the impact the student-athletes can have and the privilege it is to play sports and have the opportunities that they do. A big part of that is encouraging and paving the way for the next generation. To see the genuine admiration and excitement that these young girls show toward our student-athletes is what Loyola WISD is all about,” said Adams.

Burns is well aware of how important female role models can be to aspiring athletes, thanks to her own experience as the daughter of a high school athletic director.

“My idols were female athletes from the ’70s who played at my dad’s basketball camp or for my high school,” she said. “[My father] allowed me to interact with the high school teams while I was young, which inspired me to be like them. I think it gave me the confidence to not only play sports, but [to see] that it wasn’t just a male-dominated field.”

In the future, Loyola’s athletics department hopes that attendance and excitement will grow as they continue to evolve the event to meet the community’s needs.

“We had to shut down pre-registration early this year because of the extraordinary response,” said Paquette.

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Fans cheered on the Hounds as women’s basketball faced off against Lafayette College.

And Roos and her daughters will be there again next year, cheering them on. “WISD has a contagious energy that permeates and buzzes all day long,” said Roos.

“It makes the girls feel like Greyhounds for the day. Loyola’s Jesuit mission of influencing mind, body, and spirit is very clearly alive in both the varsity athletes and the young girls they serve at WISD.”

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