Advancing women in sport through research and collaboration
Duffy discusses PAGWSPA and its new journal
Dr. Donna Duffy is director of the Program for the Advancement of Girls and Women in Sport and Physical Activity (PAGWSPA) and an associate professor in the Department of Kinesiology. She met with us to discuss her work and UNCG’s recently-acquired Women in Sports and Physical Activity Journal.
Sitting down with Duffy, it’s easy to get a little intimidated. She’s impressive, articulate, and exudes confidence with every word.
It’s impossible to tell that this successful leader in women’s athletic research was almost a high school dropout.
“There was a time in high school when sport really saved my life.” Duffy says, “At that time in my life I was not a good student, and I would have never gone to college if it wasn’t for field hockey. I kept going to high school so I could play sports.”
Duffy has come a long way since then. She holds a BS and EdM from Boston University and earned her PhD in kinesiology in 2007 at UNCG.
Because Duffy knows first-hand how sports can change the course of a person’s life, she and PAGWSPA collaborate with various individuals and organizations to make sports programs safer and more accessible to people of all gender identities.
In 2011, PAGWSPA partnered with the North Carolina High School Athletic Association and the North Carolina Coalition Against Sexual Assault to found the Coaching Coaches program. The program trains coaches to recognize and combat sexually violent language, fighting against the normalization of violent sexual acts and creating more welcoming high school sport cultures.
With funding pending from the Z. Smith Reynolds Foundation, PAGWSPA hopes to develop a similar program for administrators and student athletes to create responsible, inclusive high school cultures for LGBTQIA athletes. “What the research tells us is that [the LGBTQIA] population is largely excluded from high school athletics,” Duffy says. “They’re harassed, they’re bullied, they don’t feel safe, and I feel that’s not acceptable, especially given what we know about the byproducts of sport participation.”
PAGWSPA is not only concerned with making athletic environments more inclusive – the program also recognizes the importance of making sports physically safer.
As the research arm of the Women’s Football Foundation, PAGWSPA is examining how female athletes experience concussions in collision sports. Until now, studies have been limited to women’s concussions in non-collision contact sports, such as soccer or lacrosse. Male concussion data is therefore the current standard for treatment of head injuries. PAGWSPA’s study of women’s tackle football may result in new knowledge of how women experience concussions, with significant implications for the way concussions are treated in women’s sports.
The quality and diversity of PAGWSPA activities makes the program a natural home for the Women in Sports and Physical Activity Journal (WSPAJ). Ownership of the publication was recently transferred from the National Association of Girls and Women in Sport to UNCG and PAGWSPA. Human Kinetics markets and prints the journal.
As the only journal in the world that focuses specifically on girls and women in sport and physical activity, WSPAJ is vital to athletics and kinesiology research. “It’s really important to focus on the role that sport and physical activity has [on women],” Duffy says. “Our journal is a very unique space to discuss issues that otherwise may not be discussed.”
The publication has seen significant growth since coming to UNCG. Since Marlene Adrian founded it in 1992, the journal was provided exclusively online. UNCG has expanded WSPAJ’s international reach by making it available in print. The journal has also risen in prestige through its association with UNCG, resulting in more visibility and subscriptions. As demand increases, Duffy plans to boost production, moving WSPAJ from a biannual to a quarterly publication.
The journal increases PAWGSPA’s international visibility, giving the program a platform to share its work with the world.
“As PAWGSPA continues to strive to become sort of a flagship for all things girls and women in sport, this journal certainly helps us achieve that status,” Duffy says.
Article Author Emma Troxler is a senior at UNCG, double majoring in English and Women’s and Gender Studies. She is a Media and Communications Intern for UNCG’s Office of Research and Economic Development. Her passion for writing about other peoples’ research led her to her current position.
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