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Real Talk about College Athletics

Two days after National Girls & Women in Sports Day was celebrated nationwide on Wednesday, Feb. 1, the GPS student body was treated to a panel of alumnae who committed to play their sport at the college level.
Two days after National Girls & Women in Sports Day was celebrated nationwide on Wednesday, Feb. 1, the GPS student body was treated to a panel of alumnae who committed to play their sport at the college level.

Before introducing the panel members, P.E. Department Chair Beverly Blackwell explained the significance of the 31st annual celebration, which recognizes the progress that females have made in increased access to sports, and the ongoing inequities at the high school level despite Title IX. Research conducted by NGWS demonstrates, she said, that “girls who play sports have better health, higher self-esteem, stronger leadership skills, greater academic achievement, and economic opportunity.” 
 
Blackwell also recognized the 13 women on the GPS faculty and staff who received college scholarships to compete in their respective sports. The alumnae panel members included Kendall Jacobs ’03 (swimming at Transylvania); MeLyn Thompson ’06 (track & field at Middle Tennessee); Carly Morrow Moss ’07 (basketball at University of Kentucky); Heather Parman Miller ’09 (volleyball at University of Tennessee Chattanooga); and Tory Lewis ’10 (softball at University of Tennessee).
 
“At Kentucky, we had our own gym, our own training facility. We didn’t have to fight for space with the men’s team, a struggle that some of my teammates had in high school but that I didn’t have at GPS,” said Carly in explaining some of the perks of college athletics. Because she chose a sport with an unusually long season, Kendall said she needed to focus in high school but had time for a sorority at her Division III college.
 
Heather noted that athletes in college are “held to a higher standard and that even their social media is monitored.” Tory recalls meeting people in 8 a.m. classes who complained about having to get up when she’d been up since 5 for workouts. “I often had to take my science classes in the summer because as a starter I couldn’t come late from labs to the games,” she said.
 
MeLyn tied athletics and academics together when she described them as going hand-in-hand. “I liked having a built-in schedule as a Division I athlete because [an athlete doesn’t] need to be on the field if they’re not being serious in the classroom too.” Carly said that after four years on a high-demand team (UTK reached the Elite Eight one year), and a coach that didn’t put up with a lot, there’s not much that fazes me now at work! I have a threshold for stress and a willingness to do whatever’s needed for the team’s sake that has been helpful to me professionally.”
 
As far as advice they would give to a girl at GPS dreaming about being on a team in college, they cautioned the girls to “know before you go about the sacrifices you may have to make,” “dream big but don’t dream so big that you miss other opportunities,” “ask questions but know that the GPS college counselors will help you find a school for your level of competition,” and “put your heart into it because it’s great to have the expense of college taken care of.”
 
Before a Q & A from the students, Heather reminded the girls that “coming from GPS you’re a step ahead of the game. You’re used to the time management issues. You learn how to build bridges and through sports you have so many opportunities.” 
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