University Vice President and Director of Athletics Marilyn McNeil, Ph.D., was honored as a guest speaker during the 2021 National Girls and Women in Sports Day virtual celebration on Wednesday, Feb. 3. The event was hosted by the New Jersey Association for Intercollegiate Athletics for Women.
Tara Rienecker. President of the New Jersey Association of Intercollegiate Athletics for Women, gave opening remarks.
“Today celebrates you, the student athlete, [as well as] your parents, family, coaches, friends and fans that have supported you throughout the years.” Rienecker began. “I’m a proud New Jersey high school and college athlete myself, and I’m excited to celebrate and congratulate the amazing student athletes and honor award winners from New Jersey schools.”
The ceremony’s theme is “Lead Her Forward,” set by the Women’s Sports Foundation. “All of you are sitting here today because of the women before you who have blazed a trail in sports,” Rienecker said.
“Their trials and triumphs have laid the groundwork for you to be a high school or college athlete, a professional athlete, an olympian or work in the field of sports and athletics today,” she continued. “Believe in your abilities, fight for your rights as female athletes and you will achieve great things. Although things might look different this year, we did not want to forget all that we have overcome. We celebrate you, your families and your triumphs in sport and in life.”
Rienecker then introduced McNeil as the celebration’s keynote speaker.
“I’m honored to be here with you today, and in awe of all of your accomplishments,” McNeil began. “This year’s National Girls and Women in Sports Day has a theme, it’s called ‘Lead Her Forward,’ and I have two points I’d really like to make.”
First, McNeil urged listeners to celebrate women in sports and to share that celebration by bringing your younger sister, niece or even grandmother to a game. Watching women’s sports on television is great as well, MeNeil explained.
“Celebrate their abilities and their beauty as athletes,” McNeil said. “Buy your niece a ball, a glove, a bat, and watch her explore and grow.”
McNeil’s second point was an encouragement for others to join an athletic profession in some capacity.
“After 53 years, I will retire along with my good colleague Sabrina Grant,” McNeil said. “We have loved this gig and you can too. You have so many employment choices today. Remember as accomplished awardees today, what you learn from your sports participation. How to compete, work hard, and be disciplined. Win with grace, lose with respect. To be a teammate sometimes means step up and sometimes means step down. This is the best classroom ever. We need more women to do this. You won’t regret it. Good luck. Congratulations, and lead her forward.”
PHOTO COURTESY of Monmouth University