Women in Sports & Recreation

Written By: MaryCatherine Smith, ‘21 - CREC Marketing Team Leader

To celebrate Women’s History Month, we wanted to introduce you to a few of the inspiring women leaders in Campus Recreation. We are so grateful for each of them and the empowering space they foster within USD Club Sports and Recreation.

Ysabel Aurel Yu: Club Cross Country

Why is it important for women to be represented in sports?
I think it’s important for women to be represented in sports especially in regards to gender norms. Seeing women participate in all types of sports proves our capabilities of being just as, and even more, powerful, persistent, and inspiring as men.

What is your favorite way to practice self-care?
My favorite way to practice self-care is to (of course) go on an easy run and take the rest of the day to relax by browsing YouTube and talking with friends. 

Eden Van Saun: Club Women’s Water Polo

Why is it important for women to be represented in sports?
I think it's vital for women and girls of all ages to see themselves represented in the activities they choose to pursue. In sports that are male-dominated, or perceived to be, it is especially important to have women role-models. There can be a lot of stigma against women who play more "aggressive" sports, just as women are often not seen as 'tough' in the first place. Having diverse representation that works to undermine these stereotypes, while uplifting the women who participate in these activities, is always necessary. 

What is your favorite way to practice self-care?
My favorite way to practice self-care is to spend some time in nature whenever I can– I find that it really helps me recharge, especially after all the time I spend inside nowadays. 

Barbara Zackowksi: Assistant Director, Fitness Programs

Why is it important for women to be represented in sports?

Representing women in sports helps demonstrate capacity, challenge gender norms, and open opportunities. Female soccer leagues launched in my town when I was starting high school, expanding the options available to me and giving me the opportunity to develop athletic skills in a sport I enjoyed while being part of a team. 

The more options all children can choose from, regardless of gender, the better the odds of finding an activity they enjoy that supports health and well-being. I want young girls like my daughter to have role models encouraging them to pursue their interests. She's already experiencing standing out for being interested in traditionally male-dominated activities, like mountain biking. Showing her videos of women mountain bikers tackling a highly technical course highlights what's possible and celebrates persistence. Athletic women defy gender stereotypes and encourage our youth to pursue a wider range of interests that support health, skill development, and community building.

What is your favorite way to practice self-care?

I enjoy meditating and practicing Yoga. Listening to a brief guided meditation early in the morning encourages a healthy mindset for the day. Yoga incorporates a similar centering at the beginning and end of practice, while also gently moving my body in ways that support sustainable health and well-being.

Serena Gandara: Director, Campus Recreation

Why is it important for women to be represented in sports?

I feel it is important for women (and all identity groups) to be represented in sports and recreation because ... representation matters.   I was fortunate to get involved in sports when I was pretty young. I remember playing little league, soccer and gymnastics throughout elementary school. Not only was it fun, but it also provided me with an outlet and a way to connect with others on my team (social skills, confidence, and exercise). However, I do not really remember seeing female athletes in the media, and in high school, I lost interest in team sports. Looking back now, it would have been so amazing to turn on the TV or flip through a magazine (it was the 80's and 90's after all) and see women-identified athletes. We have made a lot of progress over the past decade and I really enjoy seeing women at the top of their sport such as Serena Williams, Lindsay Vonn, Alex Morgan, Dannika Patrick, and Ronda Rousey - just to name a few. You can Google search or turn on the TV or scroll through an online magazine and see them on the cover looking strong and fierce! As I think about that, I can imagine children everywhere seeing that as the norm and that makes me smile. As we continue to make strides in how our culture views equality in sports, let's all cheer on women who are unapologetic, fearless, and go after what they want. I have learned in life that by lifting others up and cheering them on, you do not negate your own power or abilities - there is room at the top for everyone. I know we still have a ways to go to achieve equality in sports and other areas, but it warms my heart to be witness to our cultural growth as we strive to support and highlight women in sports and recreation. 

What is your favorite way to practice self-care?

I really do love exercise- it helps to center me and reduces my overall stress. I love to run, bike, and swim and have completed over 45 races (triathlons, bike events, or running events) thus far! I also enjoy horseback riding and taking my dog on nature walks (really, anything outside). But not every day is a "hard" workout- somedays are just spent sightseeing, relaxing outside, or taking a nap in my yard!