YSU Athletes Celebrate National Girls and Women in Sports Day

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – Avrey Schumacher remembers the stories from her mother, Michelle, a three-sport athlete and cheerleader in high school.

Opportunities were not there for Michelle, but Avery Schumacher reaped the benefits of the wealth of high school and collegiate athletics there are for her and many other female student-athletes. Schumacher and other female athletes around the country celebrated Wednesday’s National Girls and Women in Sports Day.

With the rise of high school players participating on traveling teams, this gives athletes like Schumacher better opportunities to play collegiate sports.

“Just being a woman in this day and age is awesome,” she said. “I have 10 times more opportunities than any of the people in my family did in the past.”

Numbers have risen in the high school ranks with 1.8 million girls participating to 3.4 million today, according to National Federation of High Schools CEO Karissa Niehoff.

On June 23, 1972, Title IX was enacted to prohibit, with certain exceptions, any entity that receives “federal financial assistance” from discriminating against individuals on the basis of sex in education programs or activities, according to the U.S. Department of Justice.

Rebecca Fink, senior associate athletic director and senior woman administrator at YSU.

It creates opportunities for female sports and opportunities for female administrators such as Rebecca Fink, who is the senior associate athletic director and senior woman administrator at YSU. She adds without this federal law, male and female sports would be vastly different with experiences and funding.

The Hartford Courant said men’s participation in intercollegiate athletics exceeded women’s participation 2 to 1, according to an early 1990s NCAA study. There were 281,699 male NCAA athletes in 2020, while women accounted for 222,920, according to statista.com.

The Youngstown campus boasts 21 NCAA sports on campus with 12 of them female sports.

“Title IX really leveled the playing field and created a lot of opportunities for female sports to start, for them to grow as well as female administrators like myself to get into sports and have more of those opportunities,” Fink said.

More women’s sports than men’s sports are on college campuses because football rosters are at least two to three times as much as women’s teams, she said. YSU added women’s lacrosse and bowling in the last decade, along with men’s swimming and diving.

“Whenever we’re looking at adding programs, funding, looking at experiences, Title IX is a lens we’re always looking at to make sure we have those equal opportunities and equal experiences for all of our student-athletes, regardless of gender,” Fink said.

More than a game

Currently, the YSU women’s basketball team is nearing 20 wins and is leading the Horizon League. She said it’s extremely exciting to see this women’s team thriving.

“I think they have a lot of great chemistry and coaching that’s gotten them there,” Fink said.

It starts with people like women’s basketball assistant coach Chelsea Butler, wanting to cultivate their playing and personalities to succeed during and after basketball.

“Women in general are amazing,” she said. “They’re so strong. That’s the reason I coach. I want to help young women to grow into strong women. When they leave here, be able to have a voice, know who they are and represent and be strong in that.

“Playing in high school and college was huge for me. One of the best parts of it are the relationships that come from it.”

Hailey Niederkohr, Milena Lacatena and Avery Schumacher of the YSU softball team.

Inspiring younger elementary or middle school girls is what senior guard Lindsay Mack wants to do every time she takes to the court.

“You can tell how much they look up to us,” she said. “That’s really important to me, to set a good example for them and give them someone to look up to.”

The YSU women have had no less than a 1,000 at each of its home games with a season-high 2,001 last Sunday – second in the Horizon League in home attendance with 1,251 per game behind Green Bay.

“It’s great to play for an amazing university and just see this support we get from the community,” said Jen Wendler, a junior forward.

Fifth-year year infielder Milena Lacatena said more people have been made aware of softball, watching it and seeing it grow, hearing it when she goes home to New Jersey and around the Youngstown campus. She heard plenty of chatter through in-person interaction or when her team won the league’s regular-season title last spring.

“Everyone was coming up to us, congratulating us,” she said. “I know all the women’s teams are supportive of each other, even the men. They all support each other.

“I think everything’s equal, and we definitely get recognized.”

More younger female athletes are following in the current collegiate player’s footsteps, said sophomore utility player Hailey Niederkohr.

“I think more younger athletes are looking to go into college because it’s such a great experience,” she said.

Social media is spreading the word about female athletics, especially Twitter, Lacatena said.

“You see NCAA softball posting stuff,” she said. “Then you have [Major League Baseball] accounts posting that. It definitely is spreading. ESPN, MLB, they’re definitely starting to recognize women’s sports and repost some of the cool things we do.”

Pictured: Jen Wendler, Chelsea Butler and Lindsay Mack of the YSU women’s basketball team.

Copyright 2022 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.