Young female students visited the Bills Field House in Orchard Park on Saturday afternoon and were shown a future full of sports opportunities.
Approximately 200 girls, ages 9-12, took part in The Western New York Girls in Sports Clinic which was founded five years ago by Mary Wilson, wife of Bills owner Ralph Wilson. In partnership with the Buffalo Bills, United Way and Buffalo Public Schools the girls were given the opportunity to participate in different sports-themed stations such as golf, tennis, lacrosse, basketball, volleyball, soccer, softball, nutrition and even the rules of Title IX, that requires gender equity in public schools for girls and boys.
Wilson said, "I just wanted these girls to experience different aspects of sports. One of the neat things about it are the kids that come out to coach these kids. We have 120 kids that volunteer and participate in sports in the area, who are coaching today."
About 120 volunteer coaches spent their free time to work with the girls and showed them skills, drills and tips for staying physically fit and information regarding sports opportunities through Title IX.
Michelle Fridey, 21, senior catcher on the Canisius College softball team said, "It's nice to be a role model for these girls and show them how they can get out and play more, make lots of friends and use sports as an alternative to help them stay out of trouble." Fridey went to high school locally at Williamsville South and in addition to her stellar softball career, she played soccer and basketball in high school and is majoring in health and physical education at Canisius.
Junior tri-captain Jessica Fortman, 20, of the University of Buffalo women's basketball team said, "This event is a nice chance to teach what we're good at and give back to some of the younger girls in the community by exposing them to our sport. We make it fun and the kids really seem to like it." Fortman, from Ashland, KY, also lettered in track and volleyball in high school and is majoring in exercise science at UB.
Niagara University women's lacrosse team senior mid-fielder Leigh Downing, 21, said, "I enjoy encouraging the girls a lot and this is a good way to expose them to lacrosse. Some girls pick it up really easily and we help make it fun for them so that they may want to play it someday." Downing is from Auburn, NY and is majoring in accounting.
In addition to the three participating colleges, also assisting were volunteers from Upstate NY Jr. Golf, Sportsplex, Niagara Frontier Jr. Olympic Volleyball Club, Buffalo Soccer Club, the Buffalo Jills Cheerleaders and the Girl Scouts of WNY.
The student participants were from different "Closing the Gap" schools in Buffalo and were also treated to a gift bag and lunch during their afternoon.
"I loved all the stations and meeting other people," said Kantina, 12.
"I made lots of friends and had fun," said Khristina, 12. "We learned about Title IX and played lots of fun sports."
Jelena, 10, said, "I was excited to run around the field and it was way more fun than I thought it would be."
The goal of the WNY Girls in Sports program is to empower, educate and motivate young girls through sports participation, learning life skills and awareness of Title IX and its history. For more information, visit the community page at buffalobills.com.