U-M athletes visit 40 virtual classrooms this week in honor of National Women and Girls in Sports Day

By Jo Mathis/AAPS District News Editor

What’s your least favorite sport?

Do you guys play games in the pool?

What kind of dance do you do?

My sister’s on the tennis team. Do you know her?

Forty University of Michigan student-athletes virtually visited with and answered questions from 40 elementary classrooms this week in honor of National Girls & Women in Sports Day (NGWSD).

 Members of the women’s swimming and diving, water polo, field hockey, rowing, women’s soccer, women’s gymnastics, women’s lacrosse, women’s basketball, women’s track and field, cheer, dance and club synchronized skating teams visited for about 30 minutes with the students, answering questions and talking inspiring the younger students to work hard and follow their dreams.

The event has been a chance to celebrate and promote sport for everyone and is intended to inspire girls and women to play, be active, and know their own power, says Colette Hemker, U-M’s assistant director of Leadership & Community Engagement.

Hemker said the athletes were eager to share their own experiences and how sport has helped them grow as individuals, in holistic strength and character, has given them many new opportunities, and most importantly, is fun.

“They also shared a message to the boys that they, too, can make an impact by inviting the girls to play at recess or show support by cheering for them at their games,” she said. “The feedback from the student-athletes, teachers, and kids has been overwhelmingly positive. I hope that many kids are inspired to find ways to get out and play.”   

U-M gymnast Natalie Wojcik said that visiting an Eberwhite Elementary classroom on Zoom was the highlight of her week.

“It was inspiring to see the kids so excited to learn about women in sports and I loved answering all of their questions about what it is like to be a collegiate athlete,” she said. “I hope that by sharing my experiences, I can empower the next generation to be active through sports and emphasize the importance of supporting girls and women in pursuing their goals.”

Angell fifth grade teacher Jenna Maj said she appreciated the athletes making the time to spend with her class.

“My students were inspired to see where their passion for sports could lead them in the future.”

Students met virtually with U-M athletes this week for a 30-minute chat.

“We were so excited to host Sofie (Pontre, water polo) and Emma (Petersen, dance team), two wonderful U-M athletes in our class today,” said Neha Shah, fourth grade teacher at Burns Park Elementary.  “The students really benefited from talking with these stellar athletes.  They learned the value of hard work, responsibility, and teamwork!  We really wanted to participate to celebrate National Girls & Women in Sports Day and inspire students to play, be active, and have fun!”

U-M water polo player Sophie Pontre talks to Neha Shah’s class Thursday, above and below.

National Girls and Women In Sports Day is sponsored by the Women’s Sports Foundation.

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