University Hosts 20th Annual Celebration of “National Girls and Women in Sports Day”

The University kicked off its 20th annual celebration of National Girls and Women in Sports Day to commemorate the success of female athletes on and off the field. Events included “A Conversation with Heather Mitts” on Friday, and a Saturday afternoon “Women’s Leadership Panel.” 

Mitts, a professional soccer player and three-time Olympic Gold medalist, was also featured on a the panel, where she spoke to members of the University’s female athletics’ team. 

The weekend celebrated the achievements that women have made in sports throughout the years. The observance shines light on Title IX, which bans gender-based discrimination in education, and reinforces the need for equal opportunity in sports.

“I think that the more females that you can see in any role is important and I think that’s what breaking boundaries is all about,” said Mitts. “It’s seeing them there and if they’re not there being the first one to pave the way for the future females to have that opportunity.” Mitts spoke of her love of soccer and the journey that it has taken her on. Growing up, Mitts did not have many female athletes, especially soccer players, to admire. 

“The women’s national team was only just starting up so Mia Hamm (a professional soccer player and two-time Olympic Gold medalist) was only a couple of years older than me,” said Mitts. “Nowadays, I love having so many female role models to look up to.”

She encouraged the audience members to recognize that every individual is, in fact, a role model for the younger generation. “Those little girls look up to you and they think the world of you… You could be the difference in a little girl’s life,” said Mitts. 

NGWSD 2Mitts attended the University of Florida and won a National Championship in her junior season. She said that going to college was always the plan, especially because there was no professional women’s league at the time.

Mitts is one of only four U.S. soccer players to win three Olympic Gold Medals. She said that all three of the medals are special in their own way, but the second medal, from the 2008 Beijing Olympics, meant a little more. She had torn her ACL the year before and missed the World Cup, questioning if she would be able to make a comeback. 

“I had a lot of doubters,” said Mitts. “So when I was able to stand up there on the podium, I had much more appreciation for the fact that I was able to continue playing soccer again.” 

Vice President and Director of Athletics Marilyn McNeil, Ph.D., believes that observing National Girls and Women in Sports Day is essential to the University’s athletic program. 

“It is important to tell the story of the inequities that still exist for women and sport,” said McNeil.  “We must remind our athletes that there is still work to do to reach equity, but also encourage girls and women to celebrate their opportunity to participate!”

As the athletic director at a Division I university, McNeil is in a male-dominated position.

“It is really important for women to be in positions of leadership in athletics.  We need role models to let young girls know that this is a career choice,” said McNeil.  “Women are good consensus builders and we need them to be in leadership roles!” 

 “It is really important for women to be in positions of leadership in athletics,” McNeil added. “We need role models to let young girls know that this is a career choice.”

On Saturday, one female athlete from each Monmouth team was honored for her success both on and off the field at a luncheon in Wilson Hall. During the event, Lisa Cregan, Amy Scheer, and Mitts spoke to the athletes and members of the Hawk family during their panel.

The Athletics Department then presented the New Jersey Association of Intercollegiate Athletics for Women (NJAIAW) award to Miranda Konstantinides, a senior soccer player and the president of the University’s Student Athlete Advisory Committee (SAAC), during the women’s basketball game against Niagara. 

“I am extremely honored to win this award.  To be chosen to represent not only Monmouth Women’s Soccer and Athletics but Monmouth University as a whole was a really special experience,” said Konstantinides.  “To me, winning this award means that I have left a legacy here at Monmouth University, which was one of my goals when entering the program here.”

“It was so inspiring to hear from such amazing woman leaders on the luncheon panel,” said Konstantinides, who is also the president of the Monmouth University Professional Nurses Association (MUPNA). “All three of the women were incredibly successful in sport in different ways, and it’s exhilarating to be able to meet these champions of leadership and envision yourself as successful as they are.”

McNeil said that it is imperative “To encourage our young girls and women about the benefits of sports participation and how it all translates in a positive manner to the working world.”

PHOTO TAKEN by Karlee Sell

IMAGE TAKEN from USA Gymnastics