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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


​Arizona Women Athletics continue to be inspired by the ones before them

Jesus Barrera

Arizona gymnastics head coach Tabitha Yim watches the screen in McKale Center on Jan. 8. Yim has been the head coach at Arizona for two seasons.

Women’s leadership and advancement continues to grow in the male-dominated sports industry as women continue to play key roles as athletes, coaches and management. At the UA, there are currently 11 women sports, all inspired by former women sports figures and inspiring future women in the athletics program.

The Arizona softball program has a rich history of winning, and the program has produced countless female role models. The current team knows their place as role models for young women all over Tucson, and they continue to follow in the footsteps of the women who have come before them. 

Senior pitcher Danielle O’Toole continues to work hard and appreciates the many inspiring women that have given her the opportunity to play softball. 

O’Toole mentioned growing up watching players like Arizona’s Jennie Finch and UCLA’s GiOnna DiSalvatore. There was another name that the senior mentioned she looks up to, ESPN’s Jessica Mendoza. Mendoza recently began commentating Major League Baseball games for ESPN and unfortunately received a fair amount of backlash for it.   

“Honestly, I would say Jessica Mendoza is the biggest influence for women in sports,” O’Toole said. “When she said she was doing baseball everybody was like ‘what are you talking about?’ It’s like, do you know who she is? She’s a freakin’ Olympian. Of course she’s going to be good at that.”

Arizona sophomore pitcher Taylor McQuillin has seen the role women play in sports and how it has changed dramatically by giving women the opportunities they didn’t have 40-50 years ago. 

“Women usually had the stereotypical role of ‘I’m the caregiver at home, I don’t work.’ Now in the world today you can see women evolving,” McQuillin said. “It’s huge because today softball and all of the other women’s sports are growing and being shown on television. I can go on ESPN and I can see any softball game that I want to. Even a few years back, it wasn’t even like that.” 

Reflecting on the people who have influenced women in sports, O’Toole and McQuillin are now taking on that role of influencing other girls. When asked for a picture or an autograph on a ball, O’Toole and McQuillin realize that it means much more. 

“I think that I am somebody’s role model, and I have to act a certain way and play how they want me to play,” O’Toole said. “I have to be that person for them. It’s one of the coolest feelings in the world and it’s so easy to just sign a ball and give it to them, but you’re doing more than that.”

Continuing that inspiration to young girls is the UA women’s gymnastics team. GymCats head coach Tabitha Yim is inspired by strong women in athletics, including Pat Summitt, the legendary Tennessee Lady Volunteers basketball coach, and Judy Sweet, the first women to hold the post of NCAA president, who were at the forefront of women’s athletics. 

“Honestly, I wasn’t aware of how much of an impact it can make until Judy Sweet actually came and talked to many younger women coaches,” Yim said. “She told us about the struggle that she went through being one of the first women athletic directors and the pressure she felt and how she got through it because of her greater vision of paving the way and really being a trail blazer.” 

Yim is determined to carry on Summitt’s and Sweet’s legacy and continue to open doors for women in the future knowing that there is no discrepancy between a male and female coach. 

The GymCats continue to show the power that women can bring to athletics, especially since their gymnasium is named after Mary Robys who saw the rise of women in athletics at the UA. 

 “We [Arizona Gymnastics] are very blessed because our facility is named after one of the most influential women in Arizona sports, Mary Roby,” Yim said. “I think there is always more and more to educate and really communicate how important and impactful that is for the student athletes. I like to think they are very grateful and gracious for that opportunity and continue to be a part of that history.” 

Powerful and inspirational women continue to tackle the opportunities given to them in athletics. 

“It is important to realize that the struggle isn’t over,” Yim said. “There is still a long way for us to go. There are so many opportunities that we have to further the careers of other women or to encourage women to enter the field of athletics and sports. I think, as females, we have to take on that responsibility and recognize the significance and importance of continuing to push that forward.” 

Authors Molly Schiot, Ila Jane Borders and Lydia Reeder will be presenting at the Tucson Festival of Books this weekend. Their panel, Little-Known Sports Heroines, will be presented in room 150 of the Integrated Learning Center on the UA campus on Sunday, March 12, at 11:30 p.m. 

Follow Syrena Tracy on Twitter

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