National Girls and Women in Sports Day

February 10, 2005
To celebrate the participation of girls and women in sports, the Indiana Fever served as co-host to a National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS) luncheon to commemorate 2005 National Girls and Women in Sports Day. Conducted in the Entry Pavilion of Conseco Fieldhouse, it is the fifth consecutive year that the Fever has welcomed the event.

The NFHS, the national service and administrative organization for high school sports and fine arts programs based in Indianapolis, presented the event for the sixth consecutive year.

Debbie Meyer, winner of three Olympic swimming gold medals and 2004 inductee in the National High School Hall of Fame, was the keynote speaker at the luncheon, and Angela Cain, WTHR Channel 13 reporter and director of community affairs, was the emcee. Several individuals and teams were recognized during the luncheon, with each recipient receiving a symbolic award and a small cash contribution to a girls sports organization chosen by the recipient.

In her keynote address, Meyer said that she was “fortunate because of sports to be here today.” She spoke of some of her many friends around the country and the world, stating, “We were enemies in the water, but friends out. And to this day, those are friends that I hold dear.”

“Because of sports, you have a world and a life ahead of you,” added Meyer, speaking to the girls and young women in the audience, “that has opened up to young women, and now applauds young women.”

Meyer was preceded by Kimberly Harms, associate director for media relations with the Indianapolis Convention and Visitor’s Association, who proclaimed the luncheon as a celebration for the unofficial “Year of the Woman in Sports” in Indianapolis. Beginning with the Big Ten Conference’s women’s basketball tournament and the Indiana high school girl’s basketball state championships – both at Conseco Fieldhouse, March 3-7 – the city of Indianapolis plays host to a number of national and international women’s sporting events in 2005.

An educational event designed to encourage and promote the benefits of sport participation, this year’s luncheon attracted approximately 250 students, teachers, coaches, administrators, business people and organizations from across central Indiana. Among the attendees were Fever players Coretta Brown and Ebony Hoffman.

“It is wonderful to have such a great event to showcase the talent and accomplishments of women and girls in sports across Indiana,” said Judy Thomas, NFHS director of marketing. “There are so many great stories to tell, and this event will help young female athletes realize that anything is possible if you stay focused and true to yourself.”

National Girls and Women in Sports Day celebrates and recognizes female pioneers and sport participation achievements at the local and national levels. The Women’s Sports Foundation created the event on a national scale in the 1980s following the death of Flo Hyman, who was considered one of America’s best volleyball players.

The awards presented at the luncheon were sponsored by Methodist Sports Medicine, Fifth Third Bank, Sport Graphics, the Indiana Fever, the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) and the Indiana High School Athletic Association.

Among the awards presented were the Indiana High School Athletic Association (IHSAA) Sportsmanship Award to Phyllis Tubbs, assistant athletic director at Elkhart (Indiana) Memorial High School, for demonstrating sportsmanship that transcends from the playing field into the community.

The Spirit of Sport Award, presented by Fever COO and General Manager Kelly Krauskopf, was given to Jo Ann Grissom of Indianapolis, a former standout high school and college athlete who participated in two Olympic Games. Grissom also coached track at Purdue University and is an IHSAA track official. The Spirit of Sport Award demonstrates tireless efforts to create and maintain new opportunities for school and non-school participation among female athletes.

The NCAA Robert F. Kanaby (executive director of the NFHS) Citizenship Award was granted to Allison Sears, a senior at Elkhart (Ind.) Memorial High School, for her academic and athletic achievements and her involvement within her school and community. Sears has earned 12 varsity letters in three sports (basketball, volleyball and softball) and has a 3.98 grade-point average (GPA).

Brittney Feldman of Indianapolis (Ind.) Broad Ripple High School was presented the Cinderella Award, given to an individual whose efforts inspire others to strive for greatness. Feldman overcame great odds to win the state diving championship as a sophomore and is one of the favorites for this year’s title.

The Women’s Intersport Network Award was awarded to Kathy Nalley-Schembra, teacher and volleyball coach at Indianapolis (Ind.) Roncalli High School for her lifelong commitment to girls and women in sports. Nalley-Schembra has coached volleyball at Roncalli for 34 years and has won more than 800 matches and two state championships.

The Award of Courage, which is awarded to individuals who have overcome physical, mental, socio-economic or political barriers while participating in athletic competition, was presented to Ashtin Francis of Crawfordsville (Ind.) High School. Francis has overcome tremendous family hardships to excel in three sports (basketball, volleyball and softball) and maintain a 3.5 GPA.