Athletes of all ages found much to celebrate Sunday as UNC commemorated National Girls and Women in Sports Day with an event at the Eddie Smith Indoor Field House. Student-athletes from most of the Tar Heel women's sports teams, as well as the UNC cheerleading squad, came out to spend part of the afternoon interacting with young girls and boys, teaching sports skills and having fun.
"I like that a bunch of females of all ages get to come out and participate in all different sports," said UNC rowing coach Sarah Haney, herself a former Tar Heel student-athlete. "Rowing isn't as visible as some of the other sports, so it's great that kids get to come out and interact with some of our athletes, see what the sport is all about and maybe gain an interest in the sport of rowing. It is a growing sport, and it's an opportunity for female athletes."
More than 200 kids turned out for the second-annual event, which preceded the UNC women's basketball game against Miami and was organized by student-athletes, coaches and administrators. The event was geared toward girls and boys in first through eighth grades.
Rowing brought ergs for kids to try, track and field set up a high-jump bar, and field hockey provided sticks for dribbling and shooting. Even swimmers and divers came up with ways to interact with the kids, making up fun relay races. For many of the youngsters - and parents - just being around the Tar Heel student-athletes was an added bonus.
"It's just fun to interact with the student-athletes face-to-face - they're so poised and willing to engage with the kids," said Allison Ballew, a Carolina graduate who brought her daughters to the event.
In addition to supporting her team at the event, Haney got to appreciate it as a parent, as her 2-year-old daughter went from sport to sport. "She's having a blast trying all the different sports," Haney said. "It's nice as a Carolina alum to be able to bring my daughter out here and let her play and interact with the athletes. She doesn't understand how amazing that is right now, but as she gets older she'll understand that kicking a soccer ball with the UNC soccer team is a pretty awesome experience."