'It’s inspiring': Reds Community Fund celebrates National Girls and Women in Sports Day

February 9th, 2024
From left to right: Karen Forgus, Susan Cross-Lipnickey, Alex Simons, Shelley Volpenhein, Kate Solomon, Shaumia Turner, Kathryn Gleason and Melanee Wagener. (Reds)

The Reds Community Fund punctuated its annual RCF Scholars High School Season Sendoff by celebrating National Girls and Women in Sports Day (NGWSD).

RCF Scholars combines individualized high-level athletic training with academic support and life skills development for each high school student-athlete in the Reds Nike RBI baseball and softball program, the objective being to develop student-athletes into Major League Citizens. The initiative officially wrapped up its second year on Wednesday night with a sendoff for all the seniors in the program at the P&G MLB Cincinnati Reds Youth Academy.

Panelists shared their experiences as to how they broke into the sports industry, as well as how to stay there and how to thrive. (Reds)

After enjoying a media day like the big leaguers, the athletes were treated to a special panel discussion in conjunction with NGWSD, officially recognized on Feb. 7 each year. Emceed by Reds Chief Communications & Community Officer Karen Forgus, the panel consisted of seven women who currently hold positions in sports throughout Greater Cincinnati.

The women shared how they broke into the sports industry, what it takes to stay there and how to thrive in their roles. They also shed light on how their audience can begin the process right now as teenagers. Whether you’re a woman or man, there are steps you can take now to begin setting yourself up for success -- whether it’s on or off the field.

RCF Scholars combines athletic training, academic support and life skills development. (Reds)

Fairfield High School senior and five-year RBI softball player Karley Clark enjoyed the opportunity to hear from a group of such accomplished women in their fields, especially on NGWSD.

“I’ve always wanted to be involved in sports after playing, so it was cool hearing all the different things I can get involved in. It’s inspiring,” said Clark, who won the 2023 Jennie Finch Empowerment Award. “And I think it’s crazy that not long ago it felt like women’s sports were much less important and weren’t as celebrated. It’s cool to finally get the recognition they deserve. In my five seasons here, the Reds have always done a good job at recognizing the girls as much as the boys, if not more. I’m honored and thankful to be a part of it.”

Below is the list of panelists and some of the insight they shared with the student-athletes.

Panelists Kate Solomon, Shaumia Turner, Shelley Volpenhein and Melanee Wagener. (Reds)

Susan Cross-Lipnickey (Senior Associate Athletic Director, Xavier University)

“I really hope there comes a day when we don’t have to have a National Girls and Women in Sports Day because it is just the norm. We don’t even think about girls and women in sports -- they just are there, they’re making an impact, and they’re doing what they do just like the men have done.”

Kathryn Gleason (Head Softball Coach, Northern Kentucky University)

“I’m so lucky to have had people who fought for me and continue to have those people in my life. I get to do the greatest thing every single day and impact young people’s lives. That’s always been my platform -- I fight for the young women because they deserve and earned those things as well. I’ve had great mentors and that’s what I try to do every day as the head coach at Northern Kentucky.”

Alex Simons (Director of Operations at Slink Events and Consulting)

“The relationships you make and work ethic you have when starting out gets noticed. As you start your careers, no matter where you’re going or what you’re doing, work really hard and that’s how you work your way up. There are so many opportunities out there, and the only way you’re going to learn what those are is to put yourself out there.”

Kate Solomon (Senior Vice President of Youth & Community Engagement, FC Cincinnati; Executive Director of FC Cincinnati Foundation)

“What I hope you all take away from this is owning the opportunity. Seeing when you have something in front of you and taking advantage of the moment. So much of life is just showing up and trying to do your best. If you put yourself in that situation, you will be amazed at where you can go.

“Take that approach every day of not knowing when it’s going to come up but owning the moment and being able to step into it is really important. I encourage all of you to try to watch out for those moments.”

Panelists Susan Cross-Lipnickey, Kathryn Gleason, Alex Simons, Kate Solomon, Shaumia Turner, Shelley Volpenhein and Melanee Wagener. (Reds)

Shaumia Turner (Group Sales Account Executive, Cincinnati Reds)

“The challenges that I faced were not something to bring me down. I used them to fight back and show resiliency.”

“I take on the words of the great Shirley Chisholm: ‘If there’s not a seat the table, pull up a chair.’ Just because something is not created yet, doesn’t mean you can’t make it exist. If you have fresh perspective, which is the importance of having people of different backgrounds and demographics, you’re able to create positions that will transition into different parts of the industry.”

Shelley Volpenhein (Director of Season Ticket Membership, Cincinnati Reds)

“The relationships that I formed and still have today from high school and college, those men and women on my team that were there to support me then and now, those relationships are what really inspired me and willed me to work in sports.”

“It’s so important for those of us in leadership roles to push and make space for those people that are different and have diverse perspectives, and to bring that to the organization to make decisions.”

Melanee Wagener (Director of Athletics at Mount St. Joseph University)

“My big thing is for you to believe that you belong there, because you do. And then put that work in and do the job very well to prove you belong there.”