W&L students, local community celebrate the Lady Generals

During National Women and Girls’ in Sports Week, different female athletes reflect on their collegiate sports experiences.


Washington and Lee had a weeklong celebration for National Girls and Women in Sports Day that started Feb. 1.

Each year, organizations across the country celebrate this day which recognizes the progress made by Title IX and the ongoing effort to provide opportunities for girls and women in sports.  The theme for this year’s celebration was expanding opportunity.

Title IX is a federal law that was passed in 1972 that prohibits sex-discrimination in education.  Athletics is considered an educational program or activity, so the NCAA adopted three prongs that ensure the inclusion of women in sports.

These prongs include participation, scholarship and other benefits like equipment, scheduling of games, etc. Men and women must have equal opportunities for participation and both must receive athletic scholarships proportional to their participation.

Elizabeth LeRose, the associate athletic director, oversees Title IX and the inclusion of women in sports for Washington and Lee’s athletic department. LeRose said that Title IX is all about opportunity for women, which is especially important at an undergrad school that went coed in 1985.

“It’s such a great idea to recognize achievement of women in the past to help open the door to women of the future,” LeRose said.

According to LeRose, Washington and Lee is meeting the needs and opportunities of female athletes on campus in accordance with Title IX. However, there are currently more men’s sports on campus than women’s sports. LeRose said that W&L is working to add another women’s sport within the next five years to even out the imbalance. This sport would most likely be softball.

“We are definitely always striving to have that equal number of athletes, but right now we are meeting the opportunities and what we can do,” LeRose said.    

Several female athletes on campus were asked why they thought it was important to celebrate women in sports.

“It’s important to give female athletes credit because there are just amazing women out there who are very influential and have a great impact on younger kids to get them involved and active,” field hockey player Grace Bowen, ’18, said.

Bowen’s teammate Maggie Sands, ’18, added that sports build confidence and that young women are capable of achieving great things just like men.

“We can work just as hard and compete just as hard as men can and I think it’s a place where women can feel really strong and empowered,” Sands said.   

Basketball player Staurt Ayer, ’20, talked about how important it is to acknowledge the progress that has been made for women in sports thus far.

“I was fortunate to have the ability to play sports in high school and the choice to continue at the collegiate level because of many women before me who fought for equality in athletics and now legislation such at Title IX exists to protect our ability to play,” Ayer said.

Abigail Summerville, ’19, of the lacrosse team said that celebrating women in sports “is a way to empower women and it gives people the confidence they need that sometimes they can’t find anywhere else.”

As part of W&L’s celebration of National Girls and Women in sports day, female athletes on various different sports teams visited P.E. classes at Waddell Elementary School.

Physical education teacher Holly Snyder emphasized how important it was for younger girls to have this older influence. Snyder believes it benefits the girls to see women just like them competing at the collegiate level.    

“In fifth grade this morning, definitely when I said these girls are female athletes some heads went ‘oh wow’.  I think they look up to a variety of different people and for them to have another group of women to look up to is really important,” Snyder said.   

Volleyball player Ellie Darbyshire ’17 currently works as a student teacher at Waddell Elementary School.   After watching her students play at recess, Darbyshire noticed that girls are not always included in games among their peers like the boys are.  She feels that young girls often don’t think they can compete because of this lack of inclusion at a young age.

“If they are introduced to college athletes at an early age, especially female athletes, they are reminded that they too can excel in sports,” Darbyshire said.  “Those little girls on the playground who are too afraid to join in whatever game the boys came up with that day at recess, need to know that girls can play sports too. They can be just as good, if not better, than the boys. They need to know that they can compete.”