When I was a little girl, I remember watching Michael Jordan and Magic Johnson and wanting to be just like them on the basketball court.
Softball icon Jennie Finch, a star pitcher for the U.S. Olympic team from 2004 to 2008, grew up idolizing former major league pitcher Orel Hershiser.
“I had male role models,” Finch said.
When it came to sports, most women of our generation did. I remember being shocked when I stumbled upon the NCAA women’s championship game on TV in the early 1980s. I was mesmerized by how good Cheryl Miller was in leading USC to the title. I had never seen women’s basketball on TV.
“Now, young girls are being raised not knowing this, not really knowing gender, they see female athletes (on TV),” said Finch, a former star with the Chicago Bandits. “These girls are growing up believing they can be anything.”
To help pound that point home in a more official capacity, Finch has signed on to be a part of a “you go girl” type of event next weekend in Rosemont. She will be among a large collection of speakers (I am as well) at the Empowering Girls for Life convention at the Donald E. Stephens Convention Center Aug. 10-12.
“This is a great opportunity for women and girls to come together to inspire the next generation,” Finch said. “I think girls need to feel the sisterhood, and get to know the people who came before them and broke down barriers.”
Included in that mix of speakers are women such as DePaul athletic director Jean Lenti Ponsetto, Kathrine Switzer (first woman to run the Boston Marathon), Jami Lobpries (vice president of USSSA Fastpitch), ESPN’s Victoria Arlen and Jessica Mendoza, pro soccer star Christie Rampone, Olympic gymnast Laurie Hernandez and Bandits head coach Stacey Nuveman.
There will be group discussions, interviews of panelists and question-and-answer sessions over the three days to cover all facets of sports, business and life for girls and women. Attendees will also receive all kinds of goodies in a “swag bag” valued at $70.
The visionary behind this event, which targets girls and women from age 7 to 18 and beyond, is Bill Conroy, a women’s sports advocate in the Chicago area for decades.
Conroy started years ago coaching girls travel softball teams in the south suburbs. He then brought the Chicago Bandits and professional women’s fastpitch softball to the area. He eventually sold the Bandits but still directs a travel softball team (Beverly Bandits) that has won eight national championships. Over the past 20 years, he has helped more than 430 players earn Division I softball scholarships.
“I was originally thinking that I wanted to do something for softball players in this area, but the more I thought about it, the more I felt that it was important to do something for all girls and all sports,” Conroy said. “We are making progress in the sports world and in the business world, but I think it’s still important to make sure girls and women can find role models.
“We want to reach out to young women and girls to empower them to be the best they can be. To see role models speaking about what motivated them will likely make an impact.”
Tickets for the Empowering Girls for Life event are $35 per day or a three-day pass is $100. Doors open at 5 p.m. on Friday and at 9 a.m. on both Saturday and Sunday.
Article originally posted on: