About National Girls and Women in Sports Day
This national initiative brings widespread attention each year to the achievements of female athletes and to the leadership and inspiration that girls and women in sport offer for us all. At UVA, the day is co-sponsored by the University of Virginia Athletics Department and the Maxine Platzer Lynn Women’s Center and honorees’ contributions are celebrated in the context of a UVA women’s basketball game at John Paul Jones Arena. On that day each year, JPJ is also home to a pregame sports festival for kids where children of all ages enjoy the guidance and camaraderie of current UVA student-athletes while participating in tossing, catching, shooting and kicking activities.
2017 National Girls and Women in Sports Day Honoree
Olympic Gold Medalist, Leah Smith (pictured above)
In the 2016 Rio Olympics, Smith (Pittsburgh, Pa.) won Olympic gold with the United States 4×200-meter freestyle relay and bronze in the 400m freestyle. She became the first female Cavalier swimmer to earn two Olympic medals. For UVA, Smith has won four NCAA titles, winning the 500- and 1,650-yard freestyle events in 2015 and 2016. Her impressive achievements made her an obvious choice for our 2017 celebration of National Girls and Women in Sports Day.
The Selection Process
We celebrate the honorees of National Girls and Women in Sports Day that are chosen by the UVA Athletics Department. The award is presented in the winter each year.
History and Past Honorees
The National Association for Girls and Women in Sports created this day in remembrance of a remarkable woman, Flo Hyman. Sadly, Hyman died at an early age, but her passion for equality in athletics inspired great change. After her untimely death, many prominent female athletes marched on the Capitol to demand that equality for women in athletics receive the attention it deserved. A year later an award was created in Hyman’s honor by the Women’s Sports Foundation and has since been awarded to the most prominent names in women’s athletics, such as WNBA star Lisa Leslie, Olympic gymnast Mary Lou Retton, and champion tennis player Martina Navratilova. Many credit Flo Hyman’s great spirit and belief in equality for women as an early and major force behind Title IX.
National Girls and Women in Sports Award winners put the world on notice of what can be achieved by a tenacious woman in pursuit of her dream. These resolute women inspire each of us to persist in our own vocations.
Previous recipients of this award at UVA include Olympic Gold swimmer, Lauren Perdue, Pan American Gold Field Hockey players Paige Selenski and Michelle Vittese, and first varsity coach of UVA’s women’s basketball team, Barbara Kelly, among many other accomplished female athletes.