Female athletes are finally getting some deserved media attention

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The Kansas Elite Heat, a sixth-grade women’s basketball team made up mostly of players from Wichita, won a national championship in Myrtle Beach last month. The players were Kamaria Marcy, Damaria Chiles, Queen Chalmers, Alex Dinsmore, Jenna Akin, Amiya Kates, Avah Dye, Jayla Colter and Janiya Jones.

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It’s nice to start the day with a smile and that’s what happened when I read that a sixth grade girls basketball team had won a national championship. Just a week later, I smiled again reading the story of a soccer team made up of sixth grade girls winning the United States Cup championship for their age category.

Yes, I was thrilled that the teams representing our city and state won, but it really lifted my spirits to see them publicize, thanks to Wichita Eagle sportswriter Taylor Eldridge.

You see, years ago, many years ago, I was assistant to Natasha Fife, director of women’s athletics at Wichita State. My job was to collect scholarships and do public relations work.

My first challenge was to let the public know that there were female athletes at WSU. That was in 1976. And yes, there were some very talented female students competing but it was never mentioned in the papers or on TV. No wonder people didn’t know they were training and competing.

I thought it might be fun to talk to one of these young footballers who won the United States Cup, so I chatted with Skylar Johnson, daughter of Michelle Brenwald-Johnson and Robin Johnson.

The FC Wichita squad, made up of 12-year-olds from the Wichita metro area, traveled to Blaine, Minn. Skylar said it was a great experience, but I absolutely loved what she said next. “It was really fun. My team came into the games with the mentality of ‘yes, we want to win, but we also wanted to have a good time,'” she said.

Fun! It’s what sport is supposed to be.

She added: “I feel like we have such a close bond now that it’s like a second family. I’m very happy that we can compete. Not long ago the girls didn’t have so much freedom to play against other girls.

His mum said the parents weren’t sure how long they could endure as the championship match was so close. “But seeing the photo and the story in the Wichita Eagle was pretty cool. It was all worth it,” she said.

Also reported by Taylor Eldridge, sixth graders of the 2028 Kansas Elite Heat, a basketball team made up mostly of Wichita natives, are sporting new jewelry. They show off the championship rings they won in their division at the NTBA National Championship in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, last month.

They were a team that quickly gelled in a few months with a few practices and three tournaments. Then they stormed the big tournament. Their coach, Dee Garland, hadn’t coached any girls until last September. He was also happy to see the team getting some media coverage.

“I think the world is interested in female athletes and it’s time. So many female professional athletes go to another country to compete because they are recognized there,” he said.

Alex Dinsmore, daughter of Jodie and Phil Dinsmore, is a new member of the team. She says she was happy to see the team getting some recognition and was quick to point out, “We train as hard as the boys.”

Alex, who plans to compete in basketball until she graduates, says the sport has helped her gain confidence.

Apparently the whole team was confident. I asked Alex if she was surprised they won. “No. We were confident,” she said without hesitation. Alex and his mother agreed that if they had to travel that far, they were going to win.

But that’s not all. “During the tournament, we all had to stay together and we bonded and made friends. Friendship is good for a team,” said Alex.

Young girls used to only participate in intramural competitions. It’s different now and their many successes show the improvement. But there is still work to be done.

Jazimen Gordon, who played basketball for Wichita State from 2009 to 2013 and then served as a graduate assistant from 2013 to 2015, said media coverage increased when the women’s team won the Valley Championship. Missouri in 2013, 2014 and 2015.

Jazimen says basketball allowed her to get her BA and MA degrees, travel to places she probably never could have gone otherwise, and start a successful career.

She still has all the newspaper clippings and says that every time the Women Shockers got “ink” she felt motivated, honored and happy because someone noticed and heard about all the hard work of the crew.

Whether you’re in sixth grade or college-aged, media coverage can make a difference. More women at all age levels are competing more and ultimately getting more media coverage. Let’s hope he continues to move in this direction.

Contact Bonnie Bing at [email protected]

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