Weekly Wellness: Women in sports in Columbia

Related Story

COLUMBIA - Not to alienate the male sex, but this week I would like to focus specifically on women and girls in sports. There are a number of reasons why ensuring that girls have equal opportunities to play sports is critical to their lives. Studies show that sports participation has a positive influence on girls’ academic and employment paths, as well as their physical and psychological health.

Some facts that you might find interesting:

  • Young women who play sports are more likely to graduate from high school, have higher grades, and score higher on standardized tests than non-athletes. Female athletes are more likely to do well in science classes than their classmates who do not play sports.
  • High school athletes are less likely to smoke cigarettes or use drugs than their peers who don’t play sports. One study found that female athletes are 25% less likely to smoke than non-athletes.
  • Adolescent female athletes have lower rates of both sexual activity and pregnancy. In fact, female athletes are less than half as likely to become pregnant as their peers who are not athletes. This is true for white, African American, and Latina female athletes.
  • Obesity is an emerging children’s health epidemic and a particular concern for girls of color. African American girls are more likely to be overweight than white girls. In 2013, 16.7% of African American and 11.4% of Hispanic high school girls were obese, compared to 9.7% of white girls.
  • Regular physical activity can reduce the risk of obesity for adolescent girls. It can also have positive health effects later in life. The New York Times highlighted research showing that women who played sports while young had a 7% lower risk of obesity 20 to 25 years later, when women were in their late 30s and early 40s. The study notes that while a 7% decline in obesity is modest, “no other public health program can claim similar success.”
  • Sports participation decreases a young woman’s chance of developing heart disease, osteoporosis, and other health related problems.
  • Women who participate in sports significantly reduce their risk of developing breast cancer. Girls who play sports report better health, body image, popularity, and an overall higher quality of life, compared to girls who don’t play sports

As you may have guessed, I was leading to something. I want to introduce you to a group called the Women’s Intersport Network (WIN).

WIN for Columbia was started in 1994 with the purpose of connecting local girls and women who enjoy athletics and physical fitness together, and to further provide these women and girls with opportunities to hear from other professional women who share the same interests. This not-for-profit organization is kept alive by members and volunteer staff who hope to continue to see future generations of girls and women succeed in athletics.

Every year, WIN for Columbia celebrates local women athletes with National Girls and Women in Sports awards at their annual awards luncheon. Awards are presented in the following categories:

Youth Athlete of the Year Award: Recipient will have demonstrated superior athletic achievement in a given sport within the past year. Athletic participation, school involvement, and outstanding spirit are the criteria for this award.

High School Sportswoman of the Year Award: Recipient will have demonstrated superior athletic achievement in a given sport within the past year. Athletic participation and accomplishment, school involvement, outstanding spirit, as well as a commitment to a healthy, active lifestyle are the criteria for this award.

Collegiate Sportswoman of the Year Award: Recipient will have demonstrated superior athletic achievement in a given sport within the past year. Athletic participation and accomplishment, school and community involvement, outstanding spirit, as well as a commitment to a healthy, active lifestyle are the criteria for this award.

Gladys Stankowski Sportswoman of the Year Award: Recipient will have demonstrated superior athletic achievement in a given sport within the past year. Athletic participation and accomplishment, community involvement, outstanding spirit, as well as a commitment to a healthy, active lifestyle are the criteria for this award. Post-collegiate through senior athletes are eligible for this award.

Female Coach of the Year Award: Recipient will have excelled as a coach or fitness instructor within the past year. The award winner will best exemplify the characteristics of a master teacher and mentor of athletes. Criteria include significant contributions to the sport in Columbia, a genuine caring for her athletes and their development, a commitment to the highest standards of sportsmanship, and coaching success.

Mentor of the Year Award: Recipient will have advised a girl, woman or group who has made a strong commitment to sports within the past year, by giving support, encouragement, time, resources, knowledge, advice, etc. Recipient is recognized as a girl, woman or group who has inspired a female athlete or women's athletic team to achieve outstanding results through courage, example, and/or motivation.

Inspiration Award: Recipient is recognized as a girl, woman or group who has inspired a female athlete or women's athletic team to achieve outstanding results through courage, example, and/or motivation.

Every year, the banquet invites an inspiring female athlete to speak. This year's speaker will be the head coach of WNBA team Indiana Fever, Stephanie White. In 2105, White became the first rookie head coach to take her team to the WNBA Finals. A veteran of the league, White played five years in the WNBA, one with the Charlotte Sting and four with the Indiana Fever before retiring from play due to injuries. In the off-season, White is a basketball television analyst for the Big Ten Network, where she also does studio work. She also does women’s basketball games for ESPN.

Deadline to nominate is December 16, 2015. You can nominate using the attached nomination form or you can find the nomination form at www.winforcolumbia.com. The awards banquet will be held on February 4, 2016.

News