Jane Claire Arender

The last and final woman who inspired me through sports was Jane Claire Arender. Arender is a freshman, public relations major from Brandon, MS. She didn’t play any type of sports until she arrived at the University of Southern Mississippi. Through her sorority involvement, she was forced to get her feet wet with intramural sports.

Arender plays coed and all girl intramural sports. She plays coed softball, basketball, softball, dodgeball, and soccer. Arender said she gets annoyed because the Recreation and Sports department at USM places different stipulations on the coed intramural games.

For instance, in softball you have to under hand the ball and pitch it slow pitch. You start the game with one strike automatically, so they take away the idea of “three strikes ur out”. There also has to be a strict rotation of “boy, girl, boy, girl” when playing.

“They go easier on us because we’r girls, which sort of takes some of the fun out of the games. I believe their is equal opportunity for boys and girls in intramural sports at USM but the coed games are definitely bias toward making girls feel more comfortable playing with guys,” Arender said.

I never pegged JC as a sports girl anyway, so I was pleasantly surprised when I found out she played intramurals. I’m proud of her for stepping out of her comfort zone and into the world of sports, despite if there may be some biases involved.

McKenna Bryant

The next woman that inspired me to write about women in sports is McKenna Bryant. McKenna is a freshman, political science major from Hattiesburg, MS. She plans to be the president of the United States one day. Besides her political aspirations, McKenna has been dancing since she was a little girl. Her two older sisters inspired her to participate in dance and gymnastics.

Bryant said she hates when people say “dancing is not a sport”.

“I most definitely believe dancing is a sport, it requires the utmost physicality, athleticism, and hard work and dedication. Dancing requires just as many physical skills and just as many practices as any other sport to attain such skills,” Bryant said.

She’s also not a fan of how men are seen as more feminine when they choose to dance. She thinks that dancing requires an extraordinary amount of strength that men and women both possess. Bryant believes it is important not to put a “gender” on sports.

We’ve made a heap of progress when it comes to equality in sports, but McKenna gave me a new perspective to think about. In some sports labeled “for women only”, men deal with some of the same identity and equality issues as women in predominantly male sports. We should all be working to erase stigmas in the sports world, so that everyone can play whatever sport they want to without backlash.

Claressa Shields

Happy International Women’s Day! It is only right for me to blog on this day honoring and celebrating women in our respective roles in this society, even in the sports world. Today, I am honoring 21-year-old, Olympic gold medalist in boxing, Claressa Shields.

Claressa Shields was born in Flint, Michigan. She was introduced to boxing by her father, Bo Shields, who had boxed in underground leagues. He talked to her about boxer Laila Ali, piquing her interest in the sport. At that time she began boxing at Berston Field House in Flint, where she met her coach and trainer, Jason Crutchfield. Claressa gives credit to her grandmother who encouraged her to not accept restrictions based on her gender.

Shields first made history when she became the first U.S. boxer to win two gold medals in 2016. Claressa will also make history this weekend. She is fighting in the ShoBox event, where she will be competing close to her hometown. This is historic, because Shields has just recently stepped into the world of professional boxing and has only fought in one match. She never dreamed that she would be chosen to fight in the main boxing event for Showtime Boxing.

Even though her transition from the amateurs to the pros just started, Shields is very excited and unbothered about fighting her opponent on March 10, 2017.  Her opponent is a Hungarian fighter who has fought 23 pro fights and has gone 134 rounds. This seems intimidating compared to Shields’ one pro fight and four rounds. Yet Shields isn’t concerned about the disparity and is also heavily favored to beat her opponent.

Thank you to Claressa Shields for having the courage to break gender barriers in boxing and for not letting her age or lack of experience keep her from taking a chance and establishing herself in a male dominated field. Her black girl magic is showing! #BlackGirlMagic

Sheryl Swoopes

It seems to me that African-American women are good at being “first” when it comes to sports. Our next black, female legend is Sheryl Denise Swoopes. Swoopes was born March 25, 1971. She was born in Brownfield, Texas where she was raised by her mother Louise Swoopes. She was introduced to basketball by her three older brothers. At seven years old, she began competing in a local children’s league called Little Dribblers. Her high school basketball career took place at Brownfield High.

After college, Sheryl Swoopes became the first player to sign with the Women’s National Basketball Association, which made its debut in 1997. She is frequently referred to as the “female Michael Jordan” and is famous for both her offensive and defensive skills on the court.

Swooped was named the AP Female Athlete of the Year for basketball as well as the National Player of the Year by nine different organizations. Those organizations include USA Today and Sports Illustrated. She was an Olympic gold medalist in 1996, 2000 and 2004. Swoopes played for the WNBA’s Houston Comets for 11 years and was named the league’s MVP three times. Swoopes is the first women’s basketball player to have a Nike shoe named after her: the “Air Swoopes”. She is now a motivational speaker, coach, wife, and mom. Thank you Sheryl Swoopes for your contribution to the sports world! #BlackGirlMagic

Laila Ali

Keeping the celebration of black history going, our next African-American, female legend in the sports world is Laila Amaria Ali.

Ali was born Dec. 30, 1977. She is the daughter of the late heavyweight champion Muhammad Ali and Veronica Porch Ali. Ali is the eighth of her father’s nine children. During her career, she held titles from the likes of the World Boxing Council, International Women’s Boxing Federation, International Boxing Association female super middleweight titles, and many more. Laila retired from boxing with an undefeated record.

What many people don’t know is that she was successful before she won her many accolades and awards for boxing. Laila Ali was a nail tech by the age of 16. She owned her very own nail studio before she started boxing at the age of 18. Along with owning a successful business and being a world renowned boxer, Laila has also tried her hand in acting. She is known for her roles in American Gladiator and Daddy’s Girl.

This woman is versatile and has shown the world what black girl magic looks like in several different roles. Although she will always be known for her sports contributions, I will choose to remember her for being a well-rounded, talented, and beautiful black woman. #BlackGirlMagic

Black Women in Sports Foundation

Did you know there is a foundation dedicated to black women in the sports world in the city of Philadelphia? Me either! It makes my heart happy to know that a foundation was created just for us to honor us and raise awareness of our existence in the world of sports.

This foundation was created in 1992. The Black Women in Sport Foundation, or BWSF, is a nonprofit organization that strives to increase the involvement of black women and girls in all aspects of sport, including athletics, coaching and administration. It’s dedicated to this because being involved in sports promotes character building. The founders believed participating in sports would build perseverance, self-discipline and teamwork.

The foundation partners with a host of donors such as GoGirlGo! Foundation, Ed Snider Youth Hockey Foundation, Larry S. Newman Memorial Fund of The Philadelphia Foundation, and Middle States Tennis Association. BWSF offers scholarships, hosts essay writing competitions, and volunteer opportunities for high school aged black girls involved with sports programs.The foundation also has internship and employment opportunities for those who would like to work closely with them.

I’m thankful that someone had the heart and mind to start this foundation! Black girl magic in sports is being spread all over the country!

Aaliyah Bass

As you all know, I am using the month of February to highlight black, female superstars in the sports world. This time, instead of searching online, I did some local research paired with interviewing and found another precious, African-American superwoman in the sports world. She is a USM track team participant who is using her platform to introduce other women to Jesus.

Aaliyah Bass is a freshman, Athletic Training major from Jackson, MS. She walked-on to the USM Track and Field Team this year, so she is currently not receiving scholarship at this time. She doesn’t let the fact that she isn’t on scholarship determine how hard she works and plans to soon receive one from the athletic department. Aaliyah is a short distance sprinter.

Aaliyah says, “I run because it takes me where I want to go.”

The most interesting thing I learned about her was that she is apart of FCA, the Fellowship of Christian Athletes. She has actively and single-handedly gotten several of her teammates to join her in this organization over the last semester. Aaliyah believes the only reason God allowed her to be apart of the team was for His glory and her outreach. She thinks her purpose in this sport is much bigger than just running because evidently she’s not even as fast as she used to be right now! Thank you for your contributions to the sports world girl. I hope that you keep spreading black girl magic and the love of Christ to your peers!