On Wednesday, February 5, 2020, two Cobb County schools celebrated Girls and Women in Sports Day. Hillgrove High School and Allatoona High School both recognized the national day for the first time, becoming pioneers in the school district. 2020 marks the 34th anniversary of the initial event, which was started in 1987 with a proclamation by President Ronald Reagan.
Seeking to acknowledge, celebrate, and encourage girls’ and women’s participation in sports, the national day also takes the opportunity to teach about Title IX, which made it illegal to discriminate on the basis of gender. Title IX was signed into law by President Richard Nixon in 1972. It stated: “No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance.”
Athletic Directors Sherri Thoroughman (Hillgrove) and Amie Howard (Allatoona) organized events at their schools that featured food and education for their girls in sports. Allatoona has been running a monthly breakfast event at their school called LEGACI for two years. “We have had community speakers, district speakers, and speakers from the state association come and speak to the girls on their participation in sports,” Howard said. “We wanted to celebrate our females all throughout the year.”
The events at both schools on Wednesday emphasized the power of sports to create lifelong friendships, as well as teaching life and business skills for adulthood and beyond. “Sports teach confidence and competitiveness,” the girls were told, “and both will serve you well in all your future endeavors.”
Social Studies Department Chair Stefani Blackmon and Girls Basketball Coach Susan Milam were both integral in the Hillgrove event and both spoke about their own experiences in sports, as players and as coaches. With a series of slides, they discussed the socio-economic and socio-cultural benefits of sport, including positive body image, better health, self-esteem, and preparation for corporate success. The girls were informed that 80% of female executives in Fortune 500 companies played sports.
“We can recognize all these things looking back,” said Ms. Blackmon, “but we also get to pay it forward. Remember that Hillgrove’s first state championship team was GIRLS CROSS COUNTRY,” she said to a cheering room.
Pro-basketball and WNBA player (and current Support Services Administrator at Lovinggood Middle School) Stacey Ford also spoke to the girls at Hillgrove. “Sports gave me discipline and determination, ” she said. “I learned how to be honest with myself and how to build up others. Sports gave me the confidence to deal with challenging and unfamiliar situations in my life.”
Amie Howard told the girls assembled at Allatoona that they should consider thanking a female who had taught them something or meant something to them. “While this day is about you,” she said, “it’s also about something much bigger than you. It’s about us. And we need to remember to be kind and encouraging to one another, because we’re all in this together.”
Hillgrove Principal Angela Stewart challenged the girls similarly before she dismissed them. “You are leaders whether you like it or not. Your teammates are watching you and the team is a microcosm of life, because your classmates are also watching you. And even if you don’t realize it, our elementary students are watching you. They look up to you. Give them a positive and encouraging example to follow.”