It’s often said that many women hired for corporate executive positions have played sports. On March 28, a group of accomplished women gathered at Barnard College to discuss their backgrounds and the impact of sports on their lives at an event hosted by the Columbia-Barnard Athletic Consortium.
“Beyond the Game: Women Leading the Way” was moderated by Marysol Castro, the first female public address announcer at Citi Field, home of the New York Mets. The panelists were Sherrie Deans (Columbia College, class of 1998), Erinn Smart (Barnard, class of 2001), and Amy Weeks, head coach, Columbia women’s golf. The Columbia-Barnard Athletic Consortium was established in 1983.
“I feel I came out of the womb wanting to highlight women in sports,” said Castro, a journalist with an extensive résumé that includes being the first Latina public address announcer in Major League Baseball. She spoke about her sense of obligation to help propel girls and women in sports.
Smart began fencing with the Peter Westbrook Foundation at a young age. While a Barnard student, she tried out for the 2000 U.S. Olympic team. After being selected as only an alternate, she considered quitting the sport, but instead, dedicated herself to training, even after graduating from college and starting a career. She made the Olympic team in 2004 and again in 2008, winning a silver medal with the U.S. women’s foil team.
“The Olympic experience—the pressure is real,” said Smart, who said sport gave her a sense of what thorough preparation entails. “When others are depending on your performance…it puts you at a mental level that you feel you can accomplish anything.”
Weeks grew up in an environment where all girls played sports, and she played collegiate golf. Only as she entered coaching did she grasp gender inequity and has since done her best to stand up for student-athletes. “I’m competitive and I love to be the best,” she said. “I try to instill in all the kids that I coach just to be able to take those successes every single day and move them into your real life.”
Deans was the lone non-athlete, although her career is rooted in sports. Previously executive director of the National Basketball Players Association Foundation, today she is the founder and president of the Intentional Group, through which she pushes for availability and access to sports for all. “We have to be very vigilant and understand how primary athletics is to our existence and our humanity,” she said.