Fever Co-Hosts NFHS Girls and Women in Sports Luncheon

February 1, 2007

Paula Wilkins spent time in the U.S. National Soccer program with highly-acclaimed stars such as Brandi Chastain, Julie Fouty and Mia Hamm, before turning her attention to coaching. Thursday, she chronicled stories and lessons to a Conseco Fieldhouse crowd of approximately 500.
INDIANAPOLIS, IN (January 18, 2007) -- Paula Wilkins, the highly successful women's soccer coach at Pennsylvania State University, was the keynote speaker at the National Girls and Women in Sports Day Luncheon, February 1, at Conseco Fieldhouse. The 8th annual event hosted by the Indianapolis-based National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS) also featured presentations of awards to six outstanding high school female athletes, coaches and administrators from across the state of Indiana.

National Girls and Women in Sports Day is a nationwide celebration of female sports pioneers and participants. The NFHS, which is the national leadership organization for high school sports and fine arts activities, has hosted the Indianapolis event since its inception in 2000. The Indiana Fever has been a sponsor of the event, held annually at the Fever's home arena, since its inception.

Wilkins recently completed her sixth season at Penn State and has led the Nittany Lions to the Big Ten Conference championship and NCAA appearances in all six seasons. In 2002 and 2005, her teams advanced to the NCAA College Cup (final four), including a final No. 2 national ranking in 2005. This past season, her team lost in the NCAA regional final and finished with an 18-5-3 record.

In six seasons at the helm of the Penn State women's soccer program, Wilkins has compiled a 119-19-11 record, and her winning percentage of 83.9 ranks second among active Division I women's soccer coaches. She has been honored as Big Ten Conference Coach of the Year on three occasions, and was co-Big Ten Coach of the Year in her first season in 2001.

Wilkins played college soccer at the University of Massachusetts, and she was captain of the 1993 UMass team that posted a 17-3-3 record and reached the NCAA Final Four. She was named first-team All-America by the National Soccer Coaches Association of America (NSCAA). In high school, Wilkins was an NSCAA Youth All-American at Middletown (Pennsylvania) Area High School.

Citing examples and stories from both her coaching and playing careers, her most trident message was to never stop trying, and never stop pursuing your dreams. She encouraged the young athletes to follow their feelings, and continue striving for goals in their hearts and minds.

Award Presentations
The Leadership Award, given to the person who best exemplifies the importance of commitment, knowledge and organization of women in sport, was presented to Charlene Grove, who is in her 18th season as coach of the North Knox Junior High School girls basketball team in Bicknell, Indiana.

The Award of Courage, presented to a person who demonstrates mental strength to overcome physical, socio-economic and/or political barriers, was awarded to Brooke Peters of Hamilton (Indiana) High School. Peters has overcome the rare genetic disorder neurofibromatosis to play on the girls volleyball team and excel in many other activities.

The Spirit of Sport Award, given to an individual who personifies the true spirit of sport either as a participant, supporter, promoter or advocate of girls and women's sports and fitness, was presented to Hope Robinson, girls track coach at Warren Central High School in Indianapolis.

The Achievement Award, presented to a student or team who "beat the odds" and has overcome unbelievable obstacles, was given to Amber Paz, who last year at Chesterton (Indiana) High School came back to play for the softball team after her mother died just prior to the state tournament.

The IHSAA Sportsmanship Award, given by the Indiana High School Athletic Association to a person who has demonstrated responsible behavior in victory and defeat, was presented to Hedy George, athletic director at Columbus (Indiana) North High School and a member of the Indiana Interscholastic Athletic Administrators Association Board of Directors.

The NCAA Robert F. Kanaby Citizenship Award, presented to an individual who best exemplifies the ability to strive for excellence in athletics and academics, was given to Cheneta Morrison, a basketball and volleyball player at Snider High School in Fort Wayne, Indiana who maintains a 3.5 grade-point average.

Following the presentations of awards, Robert F. Kanaby, executive director of the NFHS, provided closing remarks.