With coaches, teachers, administrators, parents and male and female athletes of all ages, about 100 people attended the first ever "Girls and Women in Sports Night," which was organized and hosted by Great Neck South High School's Girls Athletic Department, in conjunction with the school's Girls Varsity Club (GVC).
All of the student athletes who organized and attended Girls and Women in Sports Night.
South's new Girls Athletic Director, Jane Maher, came up with the idea for the event. She commented, "[The Girls Athletic Department] tries to do things for girls and women's sports. We're trying to involve the community, and get our athletes to work with younger athletes, and get their parents involved, too."
Maher noted, "This wouldn't have been possible without the help of the coaches, and GVC and its leaders - Tara Casey and Carol Nesdill."
South High Assistant Principal Mary Bonner attended the event. "I think it's so wonderful that we're focusing on women's sports here," she said. "For too many years, society didn't put the proper energy into girls sports. Great Neck has always been very good with supporting girls sports, and now I'm happy to see that we're showcasing what we've always been doing."
The event featured clinics held by each of the girls winter sports teams - basketball, bowling, gymnastics, fencing and track - in addition to three speakers and a fashion show called "Over the Years."
During the clinics, coaches and team members invited others to learn the techniques of their sports. These instructive sessions lasted for about an hour. As the fliers for the event explained, the clinics were "run in a very inclusive, instructional and fun atmosphere encouraging participation by all ages."
According to basketball team member Nora Schuman, "The basketball clinic was awesome! We did ball-handling and shooting drills." She felt that the best parts of her clinic were helping athletes build confidence and "playing with kids of all ages." This clinic was led by Varsity Girls Basketball Coach Tom Umstatter and Junior Varsity Coach Stu Fritz.
Umstatter said, "There were about 40 kids involved [in the clinic ... and everyone was involved throughout the entire program, parents as well as kids."
South High Guidance Counselor Allison Romeo, who coaches South Middle's girls basketball team, brought about half of the team members to participate. "We just wanted to support the high school program and show our spirit," she said. "It's important that we have a connection [between the middle and high schools] to encourage [participation in] athletics and help build our programs in high school... [Athletics] is a very healthy outlet for students. It teaches you how to win and lose, and that's a microcosm of life."
Seventh grader Karen Brachot, one member of South Middle's basketball team, attended the basketball clinic because she hopes to make the high school team in two years.
Another aspiring basketball player, South Middle sixth grader Brittany Miles, was encouraged to attend Sports Night when Maher and Nesdill went to her school to inform students about the event. Miles said she came because she "like[s] to play sports, especially basketball."
Members of the boys and girls fencing teams led the fencing clinic because the team's coach was unable to attend. This year, fencing became so popular at South that there were separate boys and girls teams. South is only one of seven schools in Nassau County with fencing teams. This year, the male Rebel fencers, about 20 members strong, were undefeated, with a 12-0 record. Although the new girls team, with six members, was not quite as strong this season, Maher hopes that if more girls join the team in the future, the female fencers will be able to get their own coach and build up their program. The fencing clinic was a good start in promoting the program and introducing the sport to new people.
Boys fencing captain and assistant coach, senior Mike Dreyfus, with co-captains and seniors Dave Yellin and Tony Chyn, with girls fencing captain, junior Abigail Hung and team member Katherine Harvard, explained and demonstrated the two types of fencing - epée and foil - to onlookers, and even gave the members of the audience a chance to experience the sport firsthand.
South Middle coach Janet Graham noted, "kids teaching other kids is good."
"I think [the fencing clinic] went very well," Dreyfus said. "We taught the people some things [about the sport], and I hope they enjoyed it."
Yellin commented, "Now that there are so many girls sports, it's great to get [the female athletes] here [at this event] and show them what they can do, and what athletic opportunities there are."
The bowling clinic was led by Girls Bowling Coach Esther Prince at Sheridan Lanes in Mineola.
Girls Track Coach Chris McKenzie and some members of the track team taught participants in the track clinic how to surmount hurdles and do the high jump.
Assistant Girls Gymnastics Coach Cynthia Maurino, who led the gymnastics clinic with head gymnastics coach Debbie Emmerich, said that "[This event] was a really nice way to end the season. We placed fourth in the county's conference I as a team. It was a nice celebration. We met sixth grade girls, who were really excited to work with high school girls. It was fun."
Lucy Fellini, one of the faculty members helping out at Sports Night, said, "I really believe that it's very important for young women to excel as athletes. It's a very good thing for young ladies and our sports programs. Everyone should really have a good time, and succeed at what they do. This event is a nice tradition to start, and it's only the beginning for women in sports."
After the clinics, everyone gathered to hear three speakers. The first was Kathy Koshansky, the head athletic trainer at SUNY Stonybrook. She stated that February was Girls and Women in Sports Month. As an athletic trainer, Koshansky has been able to combine her interests in sports and medicine, serving as a "link between the sports program and the medical community." She said that athletic trainers "almost take the place of doctors at the time of an injury," and stressed that although "sports sometimes invite injuries, athletics is good in developing leadership skills and camaraderie."
Koshansky said that an event similar to Sports Night has been held at Stonybrook. She felt that Sports Night was a great event because "student athletes coach younger kids, giving [the athletes] an opportunity to teach and learn about over 50 years of experiences for women in sports."
The next speaker was Pat Kennedy, who works for Athletes and Coaches in Action, a recruiting program that helps expose athletes to colleges and vice versa. Maher felt that Kennedy, who is also the Women's Athletic Director at CW Post, "would help athletes looking at college programs, especially younger kids and their parents." Kennedy gave advice on molding a high school athletic career, and said that sports provide "the basis for a positive lifestyle, whatever career you choose."
McKenzie, the third speaker, recounted her first running experiences - when she overcame having a troubled leg for five years, and then won a three mile cross country race in Scotland, and how she later became a world record holder in the 80 yard race in 1952, just like her coach, Ann, had achieved a record in that same race in 1928. McKenzie also noted that her husband, Gordon, is a two-time Olympian.
She said, "Running is a basic sport. If you run hard, you can play tennis, bowl, etc... It's like putting money in a bank now, for use when you get older."
Next, there was a raffle, with prizes from Great Neck stores: Jildor Shoes, Lazar's Chocolate, Poultry Mart, Hi Tech Photo, Bruce's Bakery and De'al Salon, in addition to T-shirts from Girls and Women in Sports Day at SUNY Stonybrook, T-shirts and backpacks from recent track competitions, and pies baked by McKenzie. Raffle tickets were free for all attendees of the event.
Sports Night concluded with the fashion show. The show featured old uniforms, including Graham's former field hockey uniform, worn by members of the current girls teams. Although having this show was Maher's idea, sophomore Diana Glazer organized the show and was the master of ceremonies.
The GVC raised $47 for charity by selling vintage Rebel clothing.
Maher has received much positive feedback from Sports Night. She noted that faculty members have told her that there should be more great programs like it, students he said that the speakers were good and "had important ideas that encouraged them to try to achieve their goals now, when they can." The donors to the raffle seemed happy to be part of the event, too.
As Maher said, "Everybody [wanted to have] a good time ... and everybody pitched in to make it fun. It was a community project. People from the community donated items for the raffle, GVC members baked cake and cookies [for refreshments] and helped set up bulletin boards [of pictures from Casey and Nesdill's days of high school athletics] ... Everyone had a little piece of putting the event together."
"It surpassed all my expectations," Maher continued, "but in the same respect, there's still a lot to do to make this better for next year, in getting the message out to the community, especially to the elementary and middle schools, so that they can participate."
Graham echoed Maher's sentiments. While she enjoyed the event, she felt that if needs a little more publicity for next year. She said, "The girls should come in team uniforms to the middle school, visit and speak to gym classes, pass fliers out, and go to homerooms - that way there can be a better turnout next year... If the kids want more, they have to give more."