From the Court to the Community: Leaders in Athletics and Service

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From the Court to the Community: Leaders in Athletics and Service

The University of Utah Lady Utes cheering because they defeated their rival Brigham Young University at the Huntsman Center in Salt Lake City, UT on Saturaday, Dec. 8, 2018 (Photo by Cassandra Palor | Daily Utah Chronicle)

The University of Utah Lady Utes cheering because they defeated their rival Brigham Young University at the Huntsman Center in Salt Lake City, UT on Saturaday, Dec. 8, 2018 (Photo by Cassandra Palor | Daily Utah Chronicle)

Cass Palor

The University of Utah Lady Utes cheering because they defeated their rival Brigham Young University at the Huntsman Center in Salt Lake City, UT on Saturaday, Dec. 8, 2018 (Photo by Cassandra Palor | Daily Utah Chronicle)

Cass Palor

Cass Palor

The University of Utah Lady Utes cheering because they defeated their rival Brigham Young University at the Huntsman Center in Salt Lake City, UT on Saturaday, Dec. 8, 2018 (Photo by Cassandra Palor | Daily Utah Chronicle)

By Leilani Gastelum

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When Title IX was announced in 1972, everything changed for women in sports. Women were finally allowed to be treated as equals to men in both athletics and their educational career.

The exact law signed by President Richard Nixon said, “No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance.”

This law changed sports forever. The University of Utah was one of the schools affected by this law, and the Utes have grown to a total of seven men’s and 11 women’s varsity teams.

Upon undergoing these changes, the women’s teams here at Utah have stepped up and shown excellence in their respective sports and academics. In 2010, the U was invited to join the Pac-12. To have the honor of joining the Pac-12, the teams not only have to have high-quality teams, but they also need to have high-quality academics. We have seen this in our women’s gymnastics team, which has won multiple national championships throughout the years.  

The women on these teams know the importance of executing leadership and making it known to others that they have similar opportunities, if not more. The women’s basketball team has shown this influence through their service within the community here in Salt Lake City.

Women’s Basketball Influence

Being an athlete and a student can be very time-consuming. From classes to practice to homework, it can be hard to find time to fit anything else during their long days. Yet, all of the U student athletes try to strive to add time to serve the community in any way that they can.

The women’s basketball team is one of the teams at the U that makes sure to add time for serving the community. Players like point guard Erika Bean and defender Megan Huff have seen the impact that their service has had on the community and they have loved the opportunity to serve.

“It’s always amazing to just be able to help out and reach out to the community,” Bean said. “We have a big platform as student athletes playing at the collegiate level. When we went to the middle school for Real Players Don’t Bully, all the kids looked up to us since we are playing at a high level [and] getting a high education. That’s really big for them just to see their role models doing what they aspire to do.”

Just like the players must put in time to become one of the nation’s best college women’s basketball teams, the Utes make sure to put in their time into the community as well.

“We do a lot of community service with our team,” Bean said. “I’m on the student leadership athletic committee and we have done this Bags to Beds event in which you create mats for the homeless so that they don’t have to sleep on the bare ground, and those mats provide an extra layer for them to sleep on. Earlier in the year, we also did Real Players Don’t Bully, which is a campaign which goes on in different schools trying to promote anti-bullying and inclusion in sports and physical activities, which is really awesome.”

The Utes also partnered up with Playworks Utah to spread their message to elementary schoolers from around the Salt Lake Valley.

Multiple players on the team have said that they have been bullied at some point throughout their childhood, and because of those experiences, the Utes knew how important it was for them to spread this message to young kids within the community.

According to studies conducted by ABC’s Alan Mozes, nine out of 10 elementary school kids have been subjected to physical or psychological bullying by their peers, while six in 10 have been bullies themselves.

“I think it’s super important to give back and show the community that we care and show kids that they have the opportunities to do things,” Huff said. “It’s not like we are celebrities, we’re people too, and we can show others that everyone has the same opportunities. I think that is a really big thing for other people to know.”

Having the opportunities to serve and to be a part of something more than just a player on a court has helped the Utes grow as individuals and as a team.

“I have learned to be grateful for the opportunities I have to be playing with the University of Utah,” Huff said. “Service makes you really grateful for the opportunities that you have. I guess it opens your eyes with how many kids look up to you and how many people look up to you and how big of an influence you really are to the community.”

These women have stepped up and taken charge in serving the community. They have taken charge on the courts of the Huntsman Center and shown they deserve to be there. These women have impacted children and impacted their communities for the better through being on the women’s basketball team here at the U.

Women’s Basketball On the Court

This year, head coach Lynne Roberts has been leading the Utes to one of their strongest years yet. They currently hold an overall record of 18-3 and 7-3 in Pac-12 play.

“This is a really special group in terms of the fact that it isn’t about them,” Roberts said. “It is about us doing things as a team in the Pac-12 that the Utah women’s basketball has not done. We’ve done amazing things with this program in the Mountain West with Sweet 16s and Elite Eight appearances, but we haven’t done a whole lot nationally since we’ve been in the Pac-12. So we have recruited to find players that want to be the reason that things start to go differently.”

With only six games remaining during the regular season, the Utes will continue to push forward with their chins up high, determined to achieve their goals they have for the season as a team.

“We have lots of goals,” Bean said. “Each game, we want to take on and be focused on one game at a time.”

Coming up this week, the Utes will be on the road to face the University of Arizona on Friday, Feb. 15 at 6 p.m. MT and Arizona State on Sunday, Feb. 17 at 2 p.m. MT.

The last time the Utes saw Arizona, the Utes defeated them 80-64. Arizona State, on the other hand, was the Utes’ first loss of the season. Utah lost to them by only two points at 63-65. The Utes also lost one of their most valuable players that weekend: senior wing Daneesha Provo. She tore her ACL during the Arizona State game.

The first game Friday night will be live streamed by Arizona and the Sunday game against Arizona State will be broadcasted on Pac-12 Networks.

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@LeilaniGastelum