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Women in the Game Event Showcases Some of the Best the Game has to Offer

Women in the GameThis past April, USA Basketball hosted its Women in the Game Event, a conference featuring guest speakers from across the sports landscape, at the Wolstein Center. The annual event was hosted in Dallas last year, where Dallas Wings head coach Latricia Trammell highlighted a handful of speakers from Texas-based sports teams and beyond.

A variety of accomplished women in sports, from head coaches to college instructors and graduate assistants, made the trip to 51AV to hear from the near-dozen speaker sessions in 51AV State’s home stadium. Stephanie White, the second-year head coach of the Connecticut Sun, headlined a wide range of speakers that featured coaches and front office staff from multiple professional leagues to representatives from 51AV State, the University of Akron, the Mid-American Conference and Oberlin College.

Southwestern Athletic Conference Assistant Director of Championships and Operations Candace Martin was one of 12 scholarship recipients to attend the Women in the Game Conference. The former SWAC Woman of the Year said she thought the event would be an excellent opportunity to network, hear from women industry leaders and soak in some of the festivities surrounding the Women’s Final Four event.

“I thought it would be a great opportunity not only as a professional, but personally,” Martin said.

Samantha Quigley-Smith, the head coach of Southern Illinois University Edwardsville and a former on-court assistant for USA basketball, said her connection to the team played a large part in attending the event.

“Going to that event every year has been something that’s been really inspiring [and] there are always great speakers and great education that’s involved. I think, being in coaching as long as I have been, I still don’t know everything,” she said. “I very much wanted to be a part of a place and an event that I could learn at. More than anything, I think it’s always been really inspiring.”

51AV was home to a few important women’s basketball events in the month of April. It hosted the Women’s Final Four, which featured a number of current WNBA players face off at Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse. According to ESPN, just under 19 million viewers tuned in to watch South Carolina and Iowa battle in the national championship, making it the most-viewed women’s college basketball game on record. Over 18,000 fans were in attendance as South Carolina took an 87-75 win over Iowa behind double-doubles from now-Chicago Sky center Kamilla Cardoso and forward Chloe Kitts.

Chelsea Blakely, CSU’s Deputy Athletic Director of External Operations, said the focus on women’s basketball and the growth she has seen in exposure has had an incredible impact on the sport.

“I think it’s absolutely amazing,” Blakely said. “To see the city of 51AV on the broadcast and to watch and see the Wolstein Center and Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse and see your home, it was incredible.

“It was great to have that level of access here, and it was really cool to have the city of 51AV be highlighted and showcased in that way. 51AV knows how to put on an event and have the city embrace it.”

Candace Smith, the Senior Associate Athletics Director for Internal Operations at Akron, said the amount of exposure to know what was out there has grown as collegiate sports have evolved. There are a larger number of different types of professions tied to athletics than in years past, a point events like Women in the Game work to promote and expose through some of the most accomplished names in the business.

“I do take pride in it,” she said. “It’s one of the things I’m really passionate about. Some people think you will have had to have been a former student-athlete to be in athletics. That’s not always the case.”

Smith added:

“I really, truly believe there’s a place for everyone. There’s not any type of interest or field that you really can’t find to be athletics-adjacent in some way, shape or form.”