(image credit: Eli Hark)

Dr. Elizabeth Sheehan, associate Sport Management professor and director of the center for teaching and learning, is paving a new road toward gender equality in sports with the creation of the Women’s Athlete Affinity Group.

Sheehan joined SNHU as an instructor of Sport Management in 2005- she recently served as the director for both college unbound and community engaged learning, where she demonstrated her passion for learning, mentoring, and leading in sports.

While the subject of sport management can be straightforward, Sheehan’s interests are not. Interested in the how and why, Sheehan’s curiosity for one particular subject peaked- gender and sports.

How has gender identity changed the experience of children in sports?

This question ran through Sheehan’s head throughout spring semester of the 2018-2019 year, as her Gender in Sports class partnered with the Chandler Center on campus to work with Inti Soccer Academy. Inti, a nonprofit organization located on Canal Street, focuses on bringing Manchester’s youth refugees, immigrants, and inner-city children together through soccer.

While working with Inti and the Manchester youth, students in Sheehan’s class began noticing that it was more difficult to get the young girls to participate in comparison to the young boys.

In fact, according to a 2016 Business Wire study, sixty-seven percent of girls feel that they don’t belong in sports, and over fifty percent of female athletes stop playing sports by the time they hit 17. However, for young and old female athletes, sports have been shown to boost confidence short and long term.

To combat these statistics and encourage female participation, Sheehan set out to create a group that would encompass mentoring and community, while also searching for the answer to her essential question and motivation for the group’s creation.

The goal of the Women’s Athlete Affinity Group is to present an opportunity to all women, including varsity athletes, recreational athletes, and sport management majors, to have an open space to share their experiences with children and teens while encouraging female empowerment in sports.

“This is an opportunity for women who don’t share other social identities- for women of all ethnic, racial and sexual orientation backgrounds, to work to bring people together and use their experience and strength to mentor younger girls in the community,” said Brooke Gilmore, director of the Women’s Center.

While the group is still evolving, Sheehan is optimistic that this project will better the experiences of young female athletes as well as those who choose to mentor them.

For information or interest regarding the Women’s Athlete Affinity Group, contact Brooke Gilmore at b.gilmore@snhu.edu or Dr. Elizabeth Sheehan at e.sheehan@snhu.edu.