The theme of this Women’s Journal is “Women You Should Know,” but we’d rather focus on the women you do know. They could be your neighbor, your coworker, your sister, or even your doctor. What you may not know, however, is that these women are also competitive athletes.
In Northeast Ohio, there are countless recreational and community-based sports teams for adult women, from more traditional activities such as swimming and biking, to emerging sports, like quidditch and ultimate frisbee. More than 200 women compete in this space; however, very few people know they exist, due in large part to the lack of media coverage for women’s sports. Add in social stigma, and current athletes often keep quiet about their activities. A new nonprofit, the Northeast Ohio Women’s Sports Alliance, or NOWSA, is changing the narrative.
To increase visibility to sports for women over the age of 18, NOWSA partners with 16 sports organizations and counting throughout greater Cleveland, Akron, and Youngstown. Their collaborative approach enables them to expand awareness to a wider audience and extend resources that the teams might not otherwise have. After high school and college, most athletes don’t play professionally so there is a huge drop off in sports participation. NOWSA serves as the centralized hub to connect individuals to opportunities in sports, whether they want to play, coach or volunteer.
NOWSA’s two co-founders, Barbara Anthony and Elise Bigley, are both working women who participate in rowing and softball respectively and operate the nonprofit on top of their day jobs. Bigley is in digital marketing while Anthony is a licensed social worker. “We met as complete strangers, but quickly found we had the same vision for local women’s sports and that our skills complemented each other really well,” Bigley describes.
Whether an athlete needs mental health support, legal guidance, financial advice, or simply help with time management, NOWSA seeks to minimize barriers so they can stay in their sport. “Women can be professionals AND athletes. We can be moms AND athletes. We can do it all,” says Anthony, also a mother of three.
Women of all ages see so many obstacles in their way to participating in a new activity. However, once they find their right fit, they realize or remember all the benefits that come with sports. More than just the physical fitness component, there is also the support system. It all translates into holistic wellness and a positive outlet for everyday stressors. “Healthy women run healthy communities and we are stronger together,” Anthony explains.
The Northeast Ohio Women’s Sports Alliance uses sports as the catalyst for social change while serving as the supportive structure for women in the community. Collaboration is their foundation, so NOWSA is always looking for partners and new athletes for their teams’ rosters. For more information, you can contact them at info@ nowsa-ohio.org. The NOWSA Founding Donor Campaign is live now through October and donations are accepted online here: https:// ioby.org/project/northeast-ohio-womens-sports-alliance