By Samantha Thompson
On a day when views from UC Santa Cruz’s East Field House shot clear across the bay, over 100 people gathered on the soccer field to watch Sissi Do Amor show off her soccer skills. Sissi, one of the world’s greatest professional female soccer players, juggled a soccer ball for a few minutes before passing it off to a spectator.
“The second best soccer player in the world came here,” UCSC Athletic Director Linda Spradley, a three-sport letter-winner in college, exclaimed. “This is no small thing.”
Saturday, March 3 was the National Girls and Women in Sports Day (NGWSD), which began in 1987. Saturday marked the fourth year that UCSC has played host to a NGWSD event. The brochure for the event proudly displayed something of a mantra and theme for those in attendance: “Throw like a girlâ€¦lead like a champion.”
The event kicked off with an inspirational talk from Sissi. She described how following her dream led her from being a poor girl with a passion, having to walk three miles to fetch water for her family, to becoming one of the most recognizable names in women’s sports. Sissi played for Brazil’s women’s national team.
The event was organized by the UCSC Women’s Center, the Office of Physical Education Recreation and Sports (OPERS), the athletic department, and intramurals and sports clubs.
“It’s so amazing to think about where a person comes from and where they end up,” Director of the Women’s Center Roberta Valdez said. “It could be somebody in this space, somebody in this gym today who just heard her and has dreams and will end up doing something amazing like Sissi did.”
About 120 people attended, an increase in turnout from last year’s event. In addition to a number of UCSC athletes, many community members ranging in age also attended.
It seemed that most of the attendees were not only impressed and inspired by Sissi’s talk—some longtime fans could hardly get over the shock of her presence.
“I didn’t know that Sissi was going to be talking,” freshman and member of the women’s rugby team Kelly McMahon said. “I was one of those 11-year-old, 12-year-old girls [watching] the games, being amazed by her and her talent and to be able to hear her speak is amazing.”
After Sissi concluded her talk, those in attendance gathered outside on the East Field to participate in a number of physical activities. Sissi and the UCSC Women’s Soccer Team led activities like juggling and shooting on goal, and gave the UCSC women’s sports teams the rare opportunity to mingle.
“Our soccer team was trying to teach my players how to dribble and kick,” UCSC women’s basketball coach Nikki Turner said. “It’s a really fun event and everyone just comes out and has a good time.”
Two of UCSC’s record-breaking women’s teams—the rugby team, which won last year’s national championship, and the women’s soccer team, which went undefeated during last year’s regular season—were honored with plaques for what Linda Spradley described as a “stellar year.”
Another event guest speaker, Dr. Christine Allen, orthopedic surgeon and director of Women’s Sports Medicine at UC San Francisco, informed attendees about sports injuries, particularly how to prevent and take care of them. She also related her experiences of success as a female doctor in a male-dominated profession.
The day concluded with a raffle giving away dozens of prizes that were donated by multiple local sponsors.
Coordinating committee members were extremely pleased with the event’s success and are already looking forward to planning the next one.
“It was really great to recognize women and girls in sports and say that there are unique [things] about what you’re doing,” Spradley said. “We do recognize you.”