CLEVELAND — The Northeast Ohio Women’s Sports Alliance (NOWSA) is helping women stay active and compete in their respective sports while also supporting women in other ways they need.
“I think a lot of women feel like they can only do work and a family. And NOWSA is here to say if you played sports growing up, you can still play sports as an adult. And we are here to make that as accessible as possible,” said Elise Bigley, who plays rugby.
NOWSA has partnered with numerous teams in Northeast Ohio, from softball to rugby, football and even swimming to show women belong in the competitive realm, just like men.
“I think that we allow men to go out and play golf. Or do those things and it's a little bit less typical for mom to be ok, I've got swim practice. I am going to be gone for three hours three times a week,” said Dee Shedlow, who swims for the Cleveland Aquatic Team.
It’s Cleveland’s LGBTQ+ swim team. Sheldon said it’s struggling with getting women on its team and believes NOWSA has been a tool to get more members to join the team.
“That is the component of our team that has grown the slowest. So to be aligned with an organization that focuses specifically on women and sports has been really helpful to us,” Shedlow said.
Also helping women get involved in male-dominated sports is the Women’s Football Alliance, which just hosted their national championships at the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton this past summer.
“These are athletes who have competed in the Olympics, have been professional athletes, are Olympic weightlifters. These are extremely serious athletes,” said TJ Monachino.
Monachino owns the team and his father runs it. The father-son duo said they got into it because of what it means to help break the stigma and perception of what women’s roles are in society.
“What motivated him and what got me excited was, we together saw an opportunity to empower women and girls to be and show them they could be whatever the heck they wanted to be. It didn't matter if you wanted to be in sports or you wanted to be an engineer. Don't let anybody tell you know, and here's the vehicle,” said TJ.
TJ said NOWSA plays an even bigger role in other avenues a woman may need like access to mental health services.
“One of their goals is to be able to offer services to people that need them. Our medical sponsor is Metro General. So in conjunction with Metro General and NOWSA we can offer counseling and psychology services and medical care. WE can help them get insured. So I think that's one of the big things NOWSA brings to the table,” said Tom Monachino, the GM of the team.
“There's so many barriers for women to play sports,” said Bigley. “Our goal is really to do as much as we can to minimize those barriers, so whether that's a financial barrier. Whether that's a mental health access or access to legal support. Really any community resource someone might need, they can get through NOWSA.”
NOWSA hopes to continue to connect women to a specific sport they want to play, all while knocking down barriers for others to play at a competitive level.
“But it's nice to know that there is a community out there that is supportive of it because it's hard to get that support from other places,” said Sarah Roman, of Cleveland Iron Maidens rugby team. “And knowing there are other adult worming women who want to stay active, who want to stay fit and keep that competitive drive that gets lost after collegiate sports.”
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