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Getting Girls Into the Game

How one member of the senior class is pushing for gender equity in the world of sport

Participating in sports can change young lives for the better—but only if those young people are able to get involved and stay involved. “I’ve seen the statistic that girls drop out of sports at twice the rate of boys by age 14,” says Alannah Scardino ’21, a student of sport management and social thought and political economy at the Isenberg School of Management and a proud advocate of using sport for social change.

“They drop out for a variety of reasons,” says Scardino, “from a lack of safety, transportation, or role models, from social stigma, the quality of the experience, those kinds of factors. So one thing I have done to address that is taking any opportunity I can, whether it’s with a school assignment or an internship, to target those reasons in order to help advance youth in sports.”

Since high school, Scardino has worked against the grain of social norms to advance female participation in male-dominated spaces. “As a kid I was put in so many sports by my parents,” says Scardino, who was most drawn to soccer and horseback riding. “Throughout the adversities I faced in my childhood, if I didn’t have that base of sport with me, I think that there’s no way I would be the person that I am today.”

Alannah Scardino ’21

Alannah Scardino ’21

Scardino has focused much of her energy on pushing for gender parity and empowering girls and women to participate in sports. Her efforts have included proposing and helping to organize a Women in Sports night for her internship with AAA minor league baseball team the Rochester Red Wings. The evening went well beyond “pinkwashing” by featuring a softball clinic and a panel of female champion athletes. Scardino has also volunteered with Street Soccer USA, an organization that brings soccer to homeless and lower-income youth and others who might not otherwise have access, at their Times Square Cup. “They’ve created a whole structure that’s about applying all the skills you learn in soccer—the communication and teamwork and being responsible and being accountable and working hard—and transferring all of those skills into a day-to-day setting or a professional setting so you can have a little bit more stability in your life.”

As she looks ahead to life after graduation, Scardino hopes to keep pushing for social change through sport. She chose UMass specifically for its sport management program, and is grateful for the support of her peers and professors as she has pursued her goals of increasing diversity and inclusion in the sporting world. “One day,” she says, “I’m really excited to start my own nonprofit organization advancing opportunities for girls in sport, and I’m going to start trying to be a changemaker wherever I can be a changemaker.”

“Sport is something that I’m drawn to because it is so innately human,” says Scardino. “People across every culture participate in sport in some way. Through play, people begin to grow these human connections, which I think is so amazing and so wonderful. It’s something everybody should be able to experience.”