Celebrating Girls and Women in Sports

Things are very different for girls and women in sports today thanks to the impact of “Title IX.” The 1972 landmark gender equity law was the first based on discrimination on the basis of sex.

“If there is a dream that you have, work toward it.”

Poly students heard just how much things have changed or not during a celebration of National Girls and Women in Sports Day (NGWSD) on February 1. Athletic Director Kym Carter shared her own story from Middle School athlete to Olympic heptathlete, noting all the opportunities that were open to her including scholarships, friendships, and world travel as a result of Title IX. She advised, “If there is a dream that you have, work toward it.”

Middle School Forum

The day began with a forum for Grades 7 & 8 students, hosted by Middle School Athletic Director Bill McNally, about the history of women in sports including a video, which described Title IX as redefining “gender roles to create an equal playing field.” Videos were interspersed with presentations by Poly coaches and student-athletes who shared stories about their athletic careers.

Maddie Ruggie ’24

Maddie Ruggie ’24 plays Girls’ Varsity Lacrosse and Varsity Squash for Poly. She asked the students if any are interested in playing squash and was happy to see hands raised. “Maybe we’ll get some new recruits,” she laughed. She explained that because she is the only girl currently playing squash for Poly, she plays with the boys. She said that can be challenging at times, but she is determined to play squash in college. Ruggie explained that she is an advocate for a program Voice in Sport, a helpful online support system for women in sports that offers articles, podcasts, advice, and more.

“Maddie is one example of the phenomenal female athletes here at Poly,” Carter said afterward.

Varsity Softball Coach Renae Beauchman

Varsity Softball coach Renae Beauchman, who grew up in California, told students she started her athletic career as a lefty pitcher playing baseball with the boys until age 12. She transitioned to softball and achieved success as a college athlete, earning a scholarship to LIU Brooklyn. Not only was she a great athlete, but Beauchman was an Academic All-American.  Beauchman pointed out the discrepancy between how much professional baseball players earn compared to professional softball players. A softball player, she said, might make $5,000 a season necessitating having a full-time job to survive. “A lot of struggles come with being a female athlete,”  Beauchman said. “When you play sports, make sure you love it.”

Varsity Softball coach Renae Beauchman with Ella Carter, Emma Spring
Varsity Softball coach Renae Beauchman (center) with Emma Spring ’22 (left) and Ella Carter ’22 (right)
Assistant Director of Sports Performance Jillian Wojcik
Jillian Wojcik
Jillian Wojcik

Assistant Director of Sports Performance Jillian Wojcik, told students she had been a dancer who practiced seven hours a day late into the night. She hoped one day to dance with the Rockettes. Instead, she taught dance to the Rockettes and found that she enjoyed the strength and conditioning aspects of training. She noted that the number of females in strength and conditioning is increasing.

Eliza Schwarz ’23
Eliza Schwarz ’23
Eliza Schwarz ’23

Eliza Schwarz ’23 began her athletic career as a figure skater. At Poly, Schwarz joined the lacrosse team. The goalie was recognized as a U.S. Lacrosse Academic All-American. “Coach Mello [Lisa Beltramello] was a great help,” Schwarz said, adding that Poly is “a very supportive environment. Go for it!” She added that she also took part in a “showcase” at which she had the opportunity to work with coaches.

Varsity Girls’ Basketball Game
Middle School kids celebrating National Girls and Women in Sports Day.

After enjoying a special cake at lunchtime to celebrate NGWSD, students were ready to cheer on the Girls’ Varsity Basketball team against Fieldston that afternoon.

The game festivities featured music by female artists, the National Anthem sung beautifully by Tea Sabbagh ’27 and Soleil Pena ’27, and Coach Beltramello a triumph as a roving play-by-play announcer. She admitted that she had “always wanted to do this in college.”

Briana Robles ’24

At halftime, when the score was Poly leading 32-15, McNally, who is also Chief Fun Officer, refereed a competition between the Varsity Girls’ Lacrosse team and Varsity Girls’ Softball team. Each team formed a circle and McNally gave each team a gym bag full of clothes. As music played, the girls passed the bag around until the music stopped and the person holding the bag had to put on an item of clothing. Who can empty the bag the fastest? Not sure of the rules, but it was hilarious. Girls’ Lacrosse was deemed the winners and celebrated as if they had won the Super Bowl. All the competitors were rewarded with pizza.

Meanwhile the Blue Devil mascot joined the cheering fans in the bleachers. There was much to cheer about as the Varsity Girls’ Basketball team led by Coach Mike Junsch ‘71, P’94, ’95 defeated Fieldston 64-31.