Sewanee Athletics celebrates 50 years of female athletes with guest video appearances from professional athletes

Female athletes celebrate 50 years of women in sport at the college. Photo courtesy of Erin Cassell.

By Claire Crow
Executive Staff

In spirit of the year-long honoring of 50 years of women at Sewanee, female athletes at the University and their coaches convened at Fowler Center on November 15 for a celebration of women’s contributions to Sewanee Athletics. 

All female teams attended the event, which first offered a catered dinner and a far from timid game of knockout between representatives from each team. Since the celebration took place an hour before the women’s basketball team’s contest against Belhaven, everyone was then paraded into the gym for a group photo, speeches from alumnae, the presentation of a jaw-dropping video featuring professional athletes addressing Sewanee athletes, and finally, to enjoy the basketball game.

Among those who spoke at the event was Dr. Nicole Noffsinger-Frazier (C’97), who reflected on her time as a team captain for the Sewanee swim team and offered words of encouragement to the crowd of current students sitting before her. Ruminating on the opportunity to speak, Noffsinger-Frazier notes how “energizing and exciting” it was to “look out on a group of accomplished athletes at the University and talk about leadership.”

Iterating the value of being a student-athlete at Sewanee in her speech, Noffsinger-Frazier discussed the life-long skills she gained from her experience. “I learned how to receive and use feedback effectively; I learned how to fail, how to persevere, how to cultivate self-discipline, and how to lead and when to follow.” 

The pinnacle of her speech touched on the importance of female leadership and power: “As women in sport, and at this particular time in history, women are claiming more leadership positions and garnering more power; yet when there are still significant hurdles and challenges to equity and inclusion, it is time for you all to step up and create your own path forward as leaders.”

Noffsinger-Frazier concluded her address by recognizing the contributions of Professor of History and Women’s and Gender Studies Julie Berebitsky,  highlighting Berebitsky’s efforts to improve the University’s sexual assault policies, her development of the women’s and gender studies department, and her encouragment to Sewanee women to “claim their power, speak up, act out, and lead unapologetically in the classroom, on the athletic fields, in social spaces; and, upon graduation, in the world beyond the gates.”

Following Noffsinger-Frazier’s address, four-time all-american tennis player at Sewanee and Director of Business Affairs at Coca-Cola, Cameron Tyer (C’93, P’22), briefly spoke about her experience on the University’s tennis team and then surprised current students with a video featuring Olympic gold-medalists Simone Biles, Missy Franklin, and U.S. Women’s National Team Captain Alex Morgan. 

Biles was the first to appear on the screen, and the whole crowd instantly let out a unified gasp. Biles stated, “Congratulations to Sewanee on 50 years of women. I may be biased, but female athletes are the best.”

Morgan came next, filming herself and saying, “Hi Sewanee athletes, Alex Morgan here. I just wanted to let you guys know how much I absolutely loved being a college athlete, so continue to work hard and inspire others.” For the full video, visit Sewanee Athletics’ Facebook page.

Bella Bombassi (C’21), a member of the women’s basketball team, reflected on her surprised reaction to the video, noting, “It was really awesome and inspiring seeing the athletes that I have admired and looked up to my whole life speaking directly to Sewanee students. I was so shocked and excited.”