Comanechi Addresses National Girls and Women in Sports Day Luncheon

February 16, 2006
Olympic gymnast Nadia Comaneci was the keynote speaker at the National Girls and Women in Sports Day Luncheon on February 16 at Conseco Fieldhouse. The annual event celebrates past and present accomplishments by girls and women in sports.

Sponsored and co-hosted by the Indiana Fever, the National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS) has hosted the annual event since its inception in 2000. Chris Denari, the Voice of the Fever and the Sports Director at WXIN-TV, FOX-59, was the master of ceremonies.

Comaneci is recognized worldwide as the first gymnast to receive a perfect 10 at the 1976 Summer Olympics, when she was just 14 and competing for her native Romania. Accompanied by her husband and U.S. men's gold medalist Bart Conner, Comaneci spoke to the audience of over 300 about achieving balance. "Balance was something that was always something very important in my sport," she said, "but it is most important in life outside of sports, too. It is important to find and maintain balance in your life."

Comaneci captivated a worldwide audience with her 1976 perfection in Montreal. Nadia instantly became a household name around the globe, and a video tribute reminded the audience of her performance.
Along with her message, she provided an acronym for the young athletes to follow:

B - Begin. There always must be a point from which you begin to reach your goals.
A - Agility. Being agile, and flexible, and having the ability to adjust to change and obstacles, is always vital to success.
L - Love. Every athlete must have love for their sport, and love to train.
A - Accountability. Too often we see struggle or failure met with blame or excuses. Athletes must always be accountable to themselves.
N - Now. Why put off until tomorrow what you can do today? Always be active in the present.
C - Challenge. Young athletes must not only accept challenge in their pursuits, but strive for challenge. Challenge helps to raise accomplishments.
E - Energy. Attitude and enthusiasm for are essential elements to lift your energy, and lift you toward your goals.

In addition to Comaneci’s keynote address, the Girls and Women in Sports Day annual awards were presented, recognizing some of Indiana’s top female student-athletes, coaches and athletic administrators. The awards presented were the Cinderella Award, the Spirit of Sport Award, the Award of Courage, the WIN Award, the IHSAA Sportsmanship Award and the NCAA Robert F. Kanaby Citizenship Award.

The Cinderella Award, presented to a student or team who has overcome adversity, was presented to the Modoc Union High School girls basketball team, which lost its head coach Amy Fuller in a car accident in November 2004.

Graue presented the Spirit of Sport Award.
The Spirit of Sport Award, presented by the Fever's Director of Business Operations Julie Graue, is annually awarded to an individual who acts as a positive role model through ethical conduct in sports. This year’s recipient was girls head basketball coach Lisa McBride of Fort Wayne Carroll High School, who has invested countless hours into her players and her community on and off the court.

The Award of Courage honors a person who demonstrates the mental strength to overcome physical, socio-economic or political barriers, and was presented to Amanda Rakow of Whiteland Community High School. Despite a debilitating medical condition, Rakow has been an outstanding leader on the softball and volleyball teams at Whiteland.

The WIN Award, to be given to Debbie Gill, honors those who exemplify the importance of commitment, knowledge and organization of women in sport. Gill has coached seven sports during her 29-year tenure at Whiteland Community High School and equips her student-athletes with the skills and the characteristics to succeed on the field and in life.

The IHSAA Sportsmanship Award honors a person who has demonstrated responsible behavior in victory and defeat. Carol Tumey, this year’s recipient, spent 40 years at Center Grove High School where she made a lasting impression on countless students as a teacher, coach, department chair and athletic administrator.

Denari was the MC of the event, conducted in the Entry Pavilion of Conseco Fieldhouse for the seventh straight year.
The NCAA’s Robert F. Kanaby Award honors a student who strives for excellence in athletics and academics while demonstrating a commitment to team, school and family. This year’s recipient is Katelyn Ostendorf of Zionsville Community High School. While earning a varsity soccer letter four consecutive years, Ostendorf has served as class president for the past three years and excelled in the school’s most rigorous courses. She will play soccer for Rice University next year and plans to become a missionary doctor.

National Girls and Women in Sports Day is a nationwide celebration of female sports pioneers and participants. The celebration began in 1987 in remembrance of Olympic volleyball great Flo Hyman, and has since expanded to recognize females involved in sports at all levels through state and regional events.

The National Girls and Women in Sports Day Luncheon was sponsored by Methodist Sports Medicine, the Indiana High School Athletic Association, the National Collegiate Athletic Association, the Indiana Fever, Sport Graphics and Fifth Third Bank.