Girls’ Night

October 1, 2018


Hospital-sponsored performance combines for teenage athletes have become common. However, Thibodaux (La.) Regional Medical Center recently put a new spin on the concept by holding the first-ever Female Athlete Expo on April 12, which featured testing, talks, and empowerment all geared to young women.

“We felt like there was a need in the community to get female athletes information specifically relevant to them,” says Amelia Castell, LAT, ATC, CSCS, NSCA-CPT, TSAC-F, Assistant Coordinator of Sports Medicine at Thibodaux Regional. Castell was in charge of the performance testing at the event.

The expo also had other goals, such as preparing female athletes who might go on to play sports in college and highlighting the abilities of local girls’ sports stars. “Male athletes and sports get most of the attention, most of the time, so it was nice to do something just for the females,” says Castell. “Plus, they were able to compare their assessment scores to peers instead of the opposite gender, as is often the case at similar testing events.”

To promote the expo, the hospital’s community relations liaisons sent invites to local coaches and arranged both print and social media announcements. In total, 80 female athletes in grades eight through 12 signed up.

“We do outreach athletic training at several area high schools, so this is the age group our sports medicine department predominantly works with and has the most contacts in,” says Castell. “We felt that if we expanded the age range too broadly, we would lose the focus of what really matters to those athletes.”

The free event began at 4:45 p.m. and ran until 9:00 p.m. During the first portion of the evening, athletes and their parents were assigned into groups and rotated through four different stations. At one, they listened to Dennis Guillot, PhD, RRT, Assistant Professor of Human Performance Education at Nicholls State University, who spoke about finding a goal motivation. Another speaker was Dori Murphy, DPT, PT, a Physical Therapist at the Thibodaux Regional Rehabilitation Center, who demonstrated exercises that can assist with proper biomechanics for injury prevention.

The final two stations were set up for performance testing with Castell and volunteer student athletic trainers from Nicholls State. Five assessments were completed: agility, vertical jump, body fat percentage, push-ups, and sit-and-reach. “I wanted each station to test something different,” explains Castell. “We included the vertical jump because college coaches usually like to know that, but I chose the other tests based on equipment needs and the time required to administer them.”

The athletes received “below average,” “average,” “above average,” or “excellent” ratings for each metric. “For those who had below average results, we made sure they didn’t get discouraged,” says Castell. “We told them the tests were just intended to provide an idea of their abilities, strengths, and areas for possible improvement.”

After the four stations, everyone reconvened for dinner. The menu was created by Jamie Meeks, MS, RD, CSSD, LDN, Director of Sports Nutrition for the New Orleans Saints and Pelicans, who paired it with a talk on performance fueling. “That way, the athletes could see what a healthy plate of food looks like that still tastes good,” says Castell. “Eating disorders are more prevalent in the female athlete, so this session was crucial to include at the expo.”

Meeks was followed by Jennifer Hale, sideline reporter for both the NFL on Fox and the Pelicans, who spoke about the keys to success. “She’s an incredible role model, and I think the girls in the room felt inspired by what she had to say,” explains Castell. “The same was true with Jamie Meeks—female empowerment really came through with those two talks.”

The remainder of the evening included presentations on preventing ACL injuries and managing concussions—both of which require specific considerations for female athletes. To wrap up the night, Lindsey McKaskle, Executive Associate Athletic Director for Internal Affairs and Senior Woman Administrator at Nicholls State, addressed areas of NCAA compliance for those athletes who want to play sports in college.

Since the event, Castell and her colleagues at Thibodaux Regional have received nothing but positive feedback. “We’re always looking for ways to improve, but we are happy with how our first Female Athlete Expo went,” says Castell. “The parents thought the information was great and that the speakers really connected with the audience well. As far as the performance testing, the girls loved having numbers to reflect on, and it seemed like something they’d be interested in
doing again.”

This article appeared in the September/October 2018 issue of Training & Conditioning.

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