Being a woman in sports

Stephanie Shaw recounts her experience in sports and how she couldn't stay away

My journey in athletics started at a young age. At three I started dancing, then I started tee ball, basketball and soccer. Later, I played volleyball, softball, golf, pole vaulting and finally decided my true passion was basketball.

It helped having an older sister who encouraged my participation in everything that she did. After high school, she pole vaulted for Michigan State University, so it’s easy to guess where I ended up.

I loved this path, but I also wanted to take my athletic career in my own direction. My sister told me about the varsity rowing team at Michigan State, which gave me hope.

I prioritized my new goal, learned a new sport and tried out for the team. After six rounds of cuts, I was officially a member of the Michigan State varsity rowing team. That year we won the Big Ten Championship and were sixth in the nation.

I’ll never forget that feeling of becoming a Big Ten Champion and the excitement my teammates and I shared, knowing our hard work had paid off. The respect I have for the women on that team and the bond that we share is something that I will cherish for the rest of my life.

After college, I spent several years working in a non-athletic field and coached high school basketball on the side. It was in those moments as a coach that I realized how much I missed being part of a team. I missed the competitiveness that athletics brought to my life.

A few years later, I found myself back in the thick of it. In June 2022 I joined the Ferris State Athletic Department as the coordinator of athletic events and summer camps.

I recently traveled to Florida with Ferris’ softball team over spring break. I witnessed twenty-five young women face adversity. They had a grueling schedule, playing 12 games in a single week. And for us Michiganders, playing in 85 degree weather is not always easy.

Throughout the week, their confidence and determination to win grew. I could see their support for one another grow even stronger. I could see them pick each other up after a loss and celebrate their victories.

I couldn’t help but think back to my time as a women’s collegiate athlete. As I watched these young women bond as a team, gain respect for each other as individuals and cherish their time together like a family, I was reminded why I loved athletics back then and appreciate it now.

Ferris has approximately 180 female student-athletes that compete at the NCAA collegiate level. While that fact on its own warrants celebration, National Women’s Month is another great way to commemorate and acknowledge our female athletes and those who support them.

I’m honored to be a part of this female athletic community and strongly encourage any women that are interested in sports to pursue a career in athletics.