Role models fill room at MIAA’s Girls and Women in Sports Day


Raider Times photo / Brianna William

Amanda Pelkey’s gold medal was out for everyone to see at the annual MIAA Girls and Women in Sports Day at Faneuil Hall on Feb. 1, 2019.

Brianna Williams, Raider Times staff

Every year, Faneuil Hall hosts a Girls and Women in Sports Day. Two female athletes from towns across Massachusetts are honored by the MIAA for their role in athletics. On Feb. 1, Watertown High’s honorees this year were senior Gabby Venezia and junior Brianna Williams. The two were joined on Feb. 1 by many familiar faces of opponents they had played against, and other athletes from towns they’ve never heard of. Despite everyone not knowing each other, they all had one thing in common, and that was being an athlete.

Surrounded by their fellow athletes, they were able to listen to some important women in the sports industry today. One of the speakers was Amanda Pelkey, a women’s ice hockey Olympian. Another speaker was Karissa Niehoff, executive director of the national federation of state high school associations. Joining the two was a speaker who continually advocates for Girls and Women In Sports, senior Olympian, Sheila McKenna.

Raider Times photo / Raider Times photo
Watertown High was represented by senior Gabby Venezia (left), athletic director Ryan Murphy (center), and junior Brianna Williams at the Girls and Women in Sports Day at Faneuil Hall on Feb. 1, 2019.

Each story had their own unique lesson for each of the high school athletes there that day. Despite the fact that all of the speakers had different backgrounds, their stories contained a common thread, and that was perseverance. Each speaker explained how they found a way to overcome the adversity that was present in their lives, inspiring each and every one of the girls to do the same.

There were other key points that each woman mentioned somehow in their speeches. One was the lack of confidence in the community and another was being a role model for younger athletes.

The confidence piece was about the doubt women have in their minds. They explained that a lot of people, in general, put a lot of pressure on themselves to fit this mold. The speakers talked about times they felt like the needed to be perfect and if they were not then they failed. The stories concluded with them realizing that that is not the case and they were able to build up the confidence from there. 

Karissa Niehoff talked about how each of the student-athletes in the audience is a favorite athlete to someone in the community, how little kids in the youth programs are looking up to each of them.

The other point about being a role model was best explained by Niehoff. She talked about how to someone you are their favorite athlete, how little kids in the youth programs are looking up to you and wanting to be just like you someday. By her saying that, she proved to the athletes that they have more power and a bigger influence than they think. That although they may be young, they can make an impact.

Niehoff had asked all the girls to think about their favorite professional athlete and then say it to the person sitting next to them. More than 90 percent of the girls said their favorite athlete was male. She put into perspective about the lack of attention women’s professional sports get compared with male professional sports. Thoughts crossed many of the girls’ minds, wondering how they could make a change. The day concluded with the athletes wanting to continue to make a positive impact and inspired them to do even more.

–Feb. 7, 2019–