Last month, UAHS students and coaches came together with sports medicine experts to learn more about what it means to be a female high school athlete.
BY KATIE MESSNER ’24
In 1972, there were fewer than 300,000 female athletes participating in high school sports. Now, there are over three million. This is how the Female Athlete Summit began, with Kasey White, assistant strength and conditioning coach at UAHS through Ohio State Sports Medicine, emphasizing how far female athletics have come since then. 1972 also brought one of the largest milestones for female equality in schools: Title IX.
Female athletes across sports and seasons at UAHS came together on Oct. 8 in the auditorium for the Female Athlete Summit. Ohio State Sports Medicine experts presented on five main topics: sports nutrition, strength and conditioning, injury awareness, sports psychology and hormone health.
White was a main proponent of the summit.
“I started my journey back in high school with a lot of anxiety and a lot of issues that [weren’t] necessarily present for other people to be able to see,” White said. “And I really felt like there were so many other girls and female athletes in general that were coming to me with the same kind of narrative. And I really wanted to be able to help them have an outlet and help them understand that there were other people out there just like them. That others were feeling the way that they were.”
The summit aimed to give strategies to enhance female athletes’ performance while also being empowering and educational.
Jackie Buell, a sports dietitian for Ohio State Sports Medicine, spoke about nutrition and how athletes should fuel their bodies during off season and on game days. Being adequately fueled is a major factor in maximizing performance and for scoring that final goal or point.
Buell mentioned the Female Athlete Triad which is a combination of three often overlooked conditions associated with athletic training: disordered eating, amenorrhea and osteoporosis, according to the American Family Physician. Without proper nutrition, female athletes can quickly damage bone health. Over exercising, which is common with athletes, can also lead to these same effects.
According to the National Eating Disorder Association, in a study done of Division 1 NCAA athletes, over one-third of female athletes reported symptoms of disordered eating. There is little data on how these results affect high school female athletes. Athletes may be less likely to seek treatment for an eating disorder due to stigma, accessibility and sports specific barriers, according to the National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders.
White talked about what building muscle and healthy exercise looks like for female athletes. Injury awareness and hormone health were presented by Ohio State Wexner Medical experts, honing in on issues that directly affect female athletes.
Marcia Edwards, a sports psychologist at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center, spoke about mental health and coping mechanisms. Athletes are often placed in stressful situations, whether it be on the field, court or in the pool.
Edwards along with Jen Carter, a sports psychologist at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center, emphasized the idea of ‘mindfulness’ or having awareness of one’s thoughts, emotions or experiences.
According to Edwards, the best strategy for dealing with mental health is putting yourself first and being mindful about what you eat and social media consumption.
“Everything around you has an impact on you,” Edwards said. “So, as long as you’re doing what you can to fuel yourself with the things that you need. I think that’s most important. Self care. You take care of your mind, your body [and] figure out what it needs. And you just keep going, right?”
Future Female Athlete Summits are already in the works at other schools. In addition, White hopes to expand their reach even further.
“We’re definitely in talks with doing a younger age group as well, doing a middle school group, doing a high school group, [getting] parents into it, coaches, all that kind of stuff, really hoping to boost the female athlete understanding and experience,” White said.
When asked what White hoped the main takeaway was for female athletes, White said, “That they’re not alone. That [they know] there is always somebody that is feeling the same that they’re feeling and that it’s okay to be scared and nervous by that feeling, but it’s not okay to shut down. It’s not okay to hold it in.”