Tigard Alumni return for Women’s Sports Symposium

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Former Tigard High School athletes returned in February to celebrate their journeys and light the path with inspiration for current students during the school’s first Women in Sports Symposium.

The takeaway: Be a lot.

“We are here to tell you collectively, the adults in this room want you to be a lot. We want you to stand up. We want you to be big. We want you to show up in spaces because it’s important. What you bring to the table is important,” principal Melissa Baran said.

Baran opened the program before turning the morning over to panelists Emma Vu, swimming 2020; Madison Hoover, volleyball 2019; Laurie Milligan Vizzini, basketball 1994; Chelsea Biglow Meyer, softball 2010.

The event, held in the school’s Deb Fennel auditorium and organized by athletic equity director, Tory Alderman, was part of National Girls and Women in Sports Day. Alderman was unable to make it.

“She wanted to do something to uplift the female student-athletes in our building,” athletic director Ryan Taylor said.

About 400 girls fill the rosters across all Tiger teams, but the precise number of female, non-binary, and female-identified athletes at the school may be a little lower because many students – like most of the panelists – participate in multiple sports.

Many of them, like the women who spoke, want to keep sports in their lives after graduation.

“It’s about giving them ideas and boosting their confidence to do it,” said girls basketball and track coach Anna Johnson. “Seeing role models coming in and seeing what they’ve done with their sports and how they’ve made it part of the rest of their lives is awesome.”

And what they’ve done is everything from recreational sports to multiple Division One national championships, trailblazing through the new world of brand rep opportunities now available to athletes, and going on to careers with industry giants.

Though their paths are unique, the experiences and advice they shared were universal and equally applicable on and or the court or field or track, or in and out of the pool: persist through obstacles, work hard, be assertive, lean on your community, and find the balance in having sports play a part in your life without defining your entire identity.

“Perseverance and how to get through and over and around obstacles because that’s the game of life. It’s obstacles. We have things that we have to get over in order to get through and on to the other side,” Vizzini said.

After graduation, Vizzini went on to win three Division I national championships playing basketball for the University of Tennessee.

Emma Vu became a trailblazer while swimming for the University of LaVerne, where she capitalized on new NCAA Name Image Likeness rules that let student-athletes earn as brand ambassadors.

Swimwear companies Jolyn and Arena sent her products, and Vu made money by posting pictures of herself in their gear on Instagram and other social media platforms.

“It was awesome,” she said, adding that it’s unusual for athletes from smaller schools to have NIL opportunities, but she went after it and parlayed it into a post-college position as Arena’s Instagram manager. “It’s an amazing way for college athletes to make money because you’re already out there, and you’re already using the products anyway.”

Miller played club volleyball in college and now works in the athletic department at the University of Santa Clara. Meyer played softball at Colorado State University and is now a senior product manager at Nike, where she works with the men’s and women’s U.S. National Soccer teams.

“One of the most important things that came out of sports was community,” she said, tearing up a little. “I had so much fun.”

The morning ended with an address from Mayor Heidi Lueb, a four-time Iron Man competitor who swam in high school but said she didn’t get serious about sports until adulthood when she began training for the epic three-event endurance races.

“You can do hard things,” she said. “We can all do hard things, but you have to be committed to getting there.”

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