Women and sports, Part 1: Student-athletes share their feelings on sports

A collage of women student-athletesTo honor Women’s History Month, University of Detroit Mercy’s Office of Marketing & Communications spoke to Titan student-athletes and coaches about their experiences in sports, which Title IX made possible. This year marks the 50th anniversary of the passage of that landmark legislation.

“As Congress debated the passage of the Education Amendments Act of 1972, one of its sponsoring senators argued that Title IX, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex in educational environments, represented an ‘effort to provide for the women of America something that is rightfully theirs—an equal chance.’ In the 50 years since the passage of Title IX, women have excelled in academic life, now earning more than half of the nation’s undergraduate, professional and doctoral degrees and constituting nearly half of full-time faculty,” said Megan Novell, interim Title IX coordinator and adjunct faculty at Detroit Mercy. “Women’s participation in intercollegiate athletics has increased sixfold in that time, and women athletes have been able to benefit from the determination, leadership and teamwork that participation in sports fosters and supports.”

Here’s what our Titan student-athletes had to say. Two coaches share their thoughts in Part 2.

Kaileigh Nuessgen  

Kayleigh Nuessgen playing lacrosseYear: Sophomore
Hometown: Beavercreek, Ohio
Major/Minor: Criminal Justice (accelerated 5-year)/Leadership and Literature
Expected graduation year: 2025
Sport: Women’s lacrosse

Why did you choose Detroit Mercy? 
The academic and athletic opportunities that were available here, and then the environment. It was something I wanted to be a part of, a growing city.

How did you get involved in sports? How old were you? What sports did you play?
My older brother was always in sports and my family was just really big into sports. As soon as I could walk, I was doing something. It started with soccer and then I started wrestling in first grade and picked up lacrosse my freshman year of high school.

What has your experience as a student-athlete at Detroit Mercy been like?
I’d say very positive. Obviously last year with COVID and coming in as a freshman, it was definitely an adjustment to be made. But we did the best we could with what we had and what we could do. There’s obviously a lot of growing to be done everywhere, but I definitely enjoy the environment of college athletics.

How has participating in sports shaped your life experiences?
I think it taught me a lot about discipline and hard work. Especially with wrestling, I definitely faced a lot of difficulty being a female in a male-dominated sport. There were a lot of times where I was younger, people wouldn’t want to wrestle me because I was a girl. Just learning to work through that and continue to be underestimated in every match you step out on. It taught me a lot about pushing through that.

There weren’t a lot of girls to wrestle my freshman, sophomore or junior year, I didn’t really run into many. But my senior year, Ohio actually started the Ohio High School Wrestling Coaches Association state tournament for women’s wrestling, so I was able to, my senior year, compete in that against other females. I did a lot of girls tournaments when I was younger, but in high school, there weren’t a lot. It was co-ed. I was the only girl on my team, but I wrestled against guys all four years.

Who is a role model that you’ve had in sports?
That’s a good question. I can’t really think of a specific athlete because I kind of switch it up, but all the U.S. Women’s National Soccer Team players were pretty big growing up, because I was really big into soccer when I was younger. So just seeing them fight through a lot of adversity and stuff like that, that’s very inspiring. And there’s a couple female wrestlers that are cool to watch and cheer on in the Olympics.

Hannah Alexis 

Hannah Alexis on the soccer fieldYear: Senior
Hometown: Toronto, Canada
Major: English and Psychology
Expected graduation year: 2022
Sport: Women’s soccer

Why did you choose Detroit Mercy?
It was a goal to play sports in the United States. I always wanted to move out when I was 18. Not for any particular reason. I do love traveling and trying new things. I went to school in Japan for a little bit when I was 15. So I thought, ‘Let’s go to the States and see what it’s about.’

How did you get involved with sports?
My parents put me in soccer when I was really young. I never had video games as a kid, so all I did was play with the neighborhood kids and just practice soccer at school, too. So all around, I got involved with sports because of my parents and because of my friends.

How old were you?
In a league or as part of a team, I think I started when I was 7. But just fooling around and hanging out with friends, that was like way earlier, ever since I could walk, I guess.

What sports did you play?
I don’t know if people count this as a sport, but I used to do ballet when I was about 3. After that, I think I moved on to gymnastics. That’s when I moved on to soccer. Other than that, I didn’t play anything else.

What has your experience as a student-athlete at Detroit Mercy been like?
It’s been an interesting experience. I definitely do like my teammates. I believe there could be a lot of improvements on the facilities and on the meal plans. I don’t think I’m the only person who thinks that way. Overall, I like the sense of community that we have with the sports teams, especially because we go to a small school.

How has participating in sports shaped your life experiences?
I use it for job applications. When they ask you if you know anything about teamwork. I say, ‘Yeah, I played soccer my whole life.’

I’ve met a lot of new people that I would never expect to meet, that I definitely would not talk to under different circumstances.

Playing a sport is beneficial because it forces you to get outside of your comfort zone, think outside the box and you’re really disciplined, too. You’ve got to follow these workouts. You’ve got to get up and be at practice on time. You’ve got to balance your homework and games, making sure you don’t have any assignments due on the same day you have games.

Overall I think it makes you a well-rounded person and it makes you ready for life and for the workplace.

Who is a role model that you’ve had in sports?
I had an athletic trainer when I was 15. He is still technically my trainer now, but I live in the States and he lives in Canada, so I don’t visit him often. But I do look up to him because he is 40 years old, I think, and he’s still in extremely good shape. He trains Olympic athletes and NCAA Division I athletes. He’s one of the few trainers who’s very knowledgeable about what he does, but he’s still always willing to learn more. Just because he has his degree or a certificate or whatever, it doesn’t mean that he just stops there. He’s always hungry for more information, and I look up to him because that’s the type of person I want to be. I want to just keep growing, even as I age.

Isabella Cole 

Isabella Cole fencingYear: Freshman
Hometown: Shelby Township, Mich.
Major: Biology
Expected graduation year: 2025
Sport: Women’s fencing

Why did you choose Detroit Mercy? 
I liked the size of the school and the programs. Detroit Mercy offered the opportunity for networking at the school by meeting professors, as well as the chance to do undergraduate research.

How did you get involved in sports? How old were you? What sports did you play? 
I guess I’ve always liked doing sport, and I just continued to do them. I started seriously started playing sports at 11. I just started fencing, but I played golf and volleyball in high school.

What has your experience as a student-athlete at Detroit Mercy been like? 
Definitely a little more stressful than I thought it was going to be to handle time management, since I’m a first-year student. It’s been an overall very positive experience. The people are the best part, especially my teammates. I’ve created some close bonds with them.

How has participating in sports shaped your life experiences? 
I feel like it has definitely grown my confidence, and I also guess my creativity in a way. When you are in a game, it’s not always perfectly planned out. You have to adapt to whatever is going on in the game. In fencing, when you are on the strip and someone is pointing a blade at you, you have to read them in a split second to adjust.

Who is a role model that you’ve had in sports?
I’d have to say my high school golf coach. I wasn’t a huge golfer, I started in high school, and I was nervous about starting the sport. Since I played high-speed games like volleyball and basketball, just trying to get into a different mentality was great and my coach was really good at that.

Kaitlin Murray 

Kaitlin Murray runningYear: Junior
Hometown: Redford, Mich.
Major: Biology
Expected grad year: 2023
Sport: Cross country and track and field

Why did you choose Detroit Mercy? 
I chose to attend Detroit Mercy because of the small class sizes and I like the team atmosphere.

How did you get involved in sports? How old were you? What sports did you play?
At a very young age, I was involved in sports because my whole family runs and encourages us to be involved in sports. I was like 5 when I ran my first race and played soccer and danced. I did tap and ballet, I ran, of course, and I played soccer as well.

What has your experience as a student-athlete at Detroit Mercy been like? 
My experience has been good. The team is very supportive, especially throughout COVID, and we’ve been able to have fun events, even when everything was canceled. I really enjoy how close the team is and the atmosphere here.

How has participating in sports shaped your life experiences?
I have always loved to move and be active. I’ve always loved being a part of something and being a part of a team. My life has always been better for it, and my family has always supported me and always wanted me to succeed at every sport that I tried.

Who is a role model that you’ve had in sports?
I’d say that my mom has been a great role model. She was also a runner and she was running all throughout my childhood. I just wanted to be as fast as her when I was younger.

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