By Lacee Ancar
Data News Weekly Contributor
In the male dominated world of sports, female athletes and professionals say it’s important to support young girls and women to change current stigmas for future generations. To support this goal in sports education, Dillard University hosted their second annual National Girl and Women in Sports Day in their student union building on Feb. 9, 2019. The day-long seminar provided mentorship and strategies for young girls to navigate different career parts in the sports world.
“The reason I wanted to host the program is because I was sitting around thinking that I’m still the only woman athletic director in the state of Louisiana and that’s just not acceptable in 2019,” said Kiki Baker Barnes, the athletic director at Dillard University.
“I felt like I have an obligation to figure out a way to help increase the pipeline of women who are going to participate in career opportunities in sports,” Barnes said.
Her commitment to building this pipeline comes from her recognition that there are few women in the state, in positions like hers. She told the young students from high schools in New Orleans how important it was to help women of color in the industry.
“You have to support, because it is challenging. Without it, it can be lonely since most of the time you are the only one who looks the way you do in your workplace,” Barnes said.
Sports figures such as Ashley Baker, the assistant athletic director at Xavier University of Louisiana, Nancy Sikobe the head coach of Dillard University’s volleyball team, and Kirsten Ellerby, the associate athletic director for Student-Athletes Enrichment at the University of New Orleans, joined Baker to mentor the students. Roughly 50 student athletes attended the seminar.
Sports journalists also examined the challenges of being women who cover the industry. WGNO and ABC26 sports reporter Karen Loftus shared her experiences of what it is like to cover athletes. She said the job can be fun, but women are often stigmatized.
“I have to strive to be better than everyone else, I’m here because I deserve to be here and I’m smart,” Loftus said. “Make sure you’re doing it because you love the job of telling people’s’ stories, it’s a grind,” she added.
Being dedicated for 12 years to her craft has taught Loftus how to juggle her work and personal life. Working long hours can cause Loftus to miss holidays and important events with her loved ones, but she said she compromises around her schedule, spending time with them whenever she gets a chance. “I have a great support system, my friends and family celebrate Christmas on Dec. 27 sometimes,” she said.
It’s never to early to start either. Allana Barefield will graduate from Xavier in May 2019, but she told the young athletes that they should always fight for what they want, even when others do not think they belong. “I was told ‘no’ so many times, but I didn’t give up, I just kept thinking that every ‘no’ was just a ‘not yet,’” Barefield said, describing when she was rejected for professional opportunities in this competitive field.
She continued to work hard, she said, and received national internships and worked to create a marketable name for herself. “I guess that saying of every ‘no’ was a ‘not yet’ became something I lived by,” Barefield said.
The event impacted the young participants who said they were inspired to follow in the footsteps of Barnes and others.
“Growing up in the Black community, you have to take leadership in what you want and not let anyone tell you that you can’t do something,” said Destaney McKee, 17, and a junior at Bonnabel High School. “I will always walk into a room and be confident in myself and what I say,” she added.