Emma McGovern ’23 is always up for a challenge when she steps onto the volleyball court.
Whether she’s serving the ball, blocking, or on defense, she’s continuously on the move as an outside hitter. The dual-degree Biology and Psychology major spent the last two years as captain and believes her time with a ball, net, teammates, and coaches has helped her become the person she is today.
“Athletics has encouraged me to continue challenging myself,” says McGovern, adding that she’s not satisfied with taking the easy way out.
This past fall, McGovern and her senior co-captain guided Bryant’s team through unknown waters as the women transitioned from the Northeast Conference to the America East Conference. In the AEC, the team played larger, more competitive schools and made it to the conference’s semifinals.
“I feel like being a captain was really important for me to build my confidence and learn how to communicate effectively with my coaches about problems the team was having and adjustments that needed to be made,” says McGovern, who is also a study hall monitor, peer tutor, Student-Athlete Advisory Committee co-chair, Bryant Senior Advisory Council member, and Belonging Task Force Committee member.
“As young women, you dream of accomplishing things in the sports world where, at one point, the opportunity wasn’t there.”
McGovern is one of 273 faces that make up Bryant’s women athletics today. Come May, she will join a fleet of student-athlete alums who have helped pave the success of women’s sports on campus. Whether these student-athletes are on the court, in the pool, or on the field, at each practice and competition they’re refining their skills, building relationships, and developing confidence. However, their on-field accomplishments would not have been possible without Title IX’s passage in 1972, which banned sex-based discrimination in educational programs and activities receiving federal financial assistance, including athletics.
“Title IX opened the door and provided more opportunities for women athletes,” says Britt King, Assistant Athletic Director for Inclusive Excellence. “As young women, you dream of accomplishing things in the sports world where, at one point, the opportunity wasn’t there.”
King says compliance took approximately five years after Title IX’s passage. Women were pioneers in athletics at Bryant and began playing sports in 1924, but they did not compete at the varsity level until 1976. When Bryant’s women’s athletic program started, four sports were offered: volleyball, tennis, softball, and basketball. Today, Bryant hosts 13 Division I offerings for women.
“Even though Title IX is a law and, for the most part, people are following it, there are a lot of people who still fight it. I think it’s a shame that it takes a law to give women an opportunity to achieve their dreams and their goals,” King says.
“It’s not an easy road to travel to get to the top, and sports teach you how to overcome obstacles and still accomplish your goal.”
King says individuals gain self-confidence, develop teamwork, boost positivity, and work on goal setting through sports.
“Many women in leadership roles — such as a governor, CEO, or congresswoman — have played sports,” says King. “It’s not an easy road to travel to get to the top, and sports teach you how to overcome obstacles and still accomplish your goal.”
Amber Thomas ’18 played defense on Bryant’s women’s soccer team and now uses the skills she learned on the field in the research lab. After studying Biology and Psychology at Bryant, Thomas worked as a traumatic brain injury model system research assistant at Boston’s Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital. She is now pursuing her Ph.D. at the University of Iowa where, after graduation, she will become a clinical neuropsychologist.
Calling her athletic experience rewarding, Thomas says she learned how to work with different types of people and stay driven. These skills carried over from the field and into Thomas’ research, which can be slow paced.
“Being a student-athlete builds an element of resilience, such as being able to take failures as they come and knowing that it might just be a temporary setback and being able to work through that," says Thomas.
Off the field, Thomas was a chemistry tutor, MyPath Mentor, and part of the Dean’s Student Advisory Council, Bryant Psychology Association, and Special Olympics Rhode Island.
Looking at the future of Bryant athletics, competitive runner Patricia Adesanya ’23 says she can’t wait to see what’s in store for the university’s indoor and outdoor track and field program. Describing the team as “a force to be reckoned with,” the women’s indoor track and field team finished fourth overall in the America East Indoor Championships in February and broke six program records this past season.
"It’s hard when you don’t see a lot of minorities on campus that look like you, but it’s also rewarding when you are a student leader and people can look up to you in those roles."
Adesanya, a Human Resource Management major, participates in the 60- and 100-meter dashes and long jump. Participating in sports, she says, has given her stability and helped her develop her time management skills.
“Being a woman of color and an athlete is a big aspect of my life I appreciate and love. It’s hard when you don’t see a lot of minorities on campus that look like you, but it’s also rewarding when you are a student leader and people can look up to you in those roles,” says Adesanya, a resident assistant, former orientation leader, a W.O.K.E. Athletes e-board member, Extravaganza team leader, and member of the Bryant Senior Advisory Committee.
The university continues to advance its opportunities for women athletes and recently added bowling, rowing, and golf for women. King says the university plans to construct a home field for Bryant’s field hockey team, as well.
As the offerings expand, Bryant’s women athletes continue to break barriers and reign in next-level competition. In February, the women's swimming and diving team placed second in the America East Championships. Meanwhile, Alana Perkins ’23 made 187 three-pointers, setting a new record for the women’s basketball team.
“It's so empowering and rewarding to see women in sports and knowing that we’re doing so well,” Adesanya says.
To learn more about Bryant University Athletics, visit BryantBulldogs.com