Column: Athletes dish about female players

The UConn bench celebrates during the first half of the national championship game against Syracuse at Bankers Field House in Indianapolis, Ind. on Tuesday April 5, 2016. The Huskies won their fourth consecutive NCAA national championship. (Bailey Wright/The Daily Campus)

If you have ever claimed UConn to be the basketball capital of the world, I hope you call yourself a feminist.

If you believe in the 11th National Championship title the UConn women’s basketball team earned last night—the first time in NCAA women’s basketball history a team has won four championships within four years—then, I hope you call yourself a feminist.

More than 70 percent of our basketball bragging rights come from the women’s team. Not to discredit any of the men’s accomplishments, but without the women, we are no capital.

“For people to be able to say they went to school with these girls, it’s something they can tell their grandchildren,” said Deysha Smith-Jenkins, a close friend of Moriah Jefferson’s and a student-athlete herself on the women’s cross-country and track teams.

Women shouldn’t be ashamed for being good at their sport. I’ve never witnessed a group of individuals, who happen to be women, work more hard at their sport. You never hear them complain. That motivates me
— Deysha Smith-Jenkins

This season, the team went undefeated in 40 games. It is not the first time. In fact, it is the sixth.

They are so good that some say they are too good. Imagine that.

“They don’t want to blow every team out, they just work that hard,” said Smith-Jenkins, an eighth-semester journalism and women’s gender and sexuality studies double major.

And their hard work ought to be recognized.

“Women shouldn’t be ashamed for being good at their sport. I’ve never witnessed a group of individuals, who happen to be women, work more hard at their sport. You never hear them complain. That motivates me,” said Smith-Jenkins.

And that is exactly what feminism is about. The word scares people sometimes, and it’s true there are some radical interpretations. However, the central theme is women working hard to be as good as they can be.

“Seeing anyone do great things is awesome. It should empower everyone,” echoed Nico Darras, an eighth-semester women’s gender and sexuality studies major and pitcher on the baseball team.

Among the empowering feats the team has brought is legitimacy to the current conversation about women claiming space in sports, Director of the Women’s Center at UConn, Kathleen Holgerson, said.

Like the U.S. women’s national soccer team, our women’s team is a central force at an important moment in history.

Not only are they putting UConn on the map for wins, but they are also giving the university a voice in an international and socially historic conversation.

And as commendable and visible as this dynasty team is, women’s sports teams at UConn are excelling across the board. The field hockey team has won four national championships and went 22-1 this past season. The women’s cross-country team got third in the American Athletic Conference Championship. And the women’s soccer team went 19-4 last season.

Of the 22 National Championships titles UConn now holds, women’s athletic teams hold 15.

“Further emphasizing the abilities of female athletes and showcasing women’s sports is an excellent way for colleges and universities to give women the recognition they deserve,” said UConn president Susan Herbst in an essay for Inside Higher Education in 2012.

We are prideful of our athletic tradition at UConn, and we like to boast that we have some of the best athletes, certainly women included.

So, if you like to call UConn a capital, you must believe in women playing basketball, really, really great basketball.

You must support women realizing and achieving their full potential.

And I guess, you must be a feminist. 


Annie Pancak is a staff writer for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at anne.pancak@uconn.edu. She tweets @APancak