Paula Marshall is Founding Chair of Athletic Women Excel
In November, the Tulsa Sports Commission announced the formation of an initiative focused on empowering women and girls through sports and fitness in the Tulsa area.
The program, AWE (Athletic Women Excel) Tulsa, will work on retaining, recruiting, developing and enhancing local women’s athletic events, programs and organizations with the goal of enhancing females’ economic and personal health.
Three years ago, officials with the Tulsa Sports Commission sat down to discuss ways to unify Tulsa’s sports industry and to promote female engagement in physical activities.
From that came the creation of a quarterly sports forum and the MOVE Forum for the promotion of women and sports. The MOVE Forum will now work in conjunction with AWE Tulsa, whereas the quarterly sports forum will continue to operate independently.
In addition to improvement in physical health, physical activity has been proven to greatly benefit the mental and emotional health of women in particular.
According to the Women’s Sports Foundation, female engagement in athletics has been found to improve educational attainment and reduce the risk of breast cancer, osteoporosis, depression and suicide.
“Athletics teach women to fight, to dig down and find their reservoir,” says Paula Marshall, CEO of Bama Companies and AWE founding chair. “They gain the skill of overcoming obstacles.”
“We asked Paula to be involved with AWE because she is an avid sports enthusiast, athlete and a powerhouse CEO,” says Katie Nicholas, operations and development manager for the Tulsa Sports Commission.
Marshall also has a strong passion for athletics and the positive effect it has on women.
Sports Commission officials hope to build upon the sports culture that Tulsa already has created, including with the Tulsa Shock, the Tulsa Run and Tulsa Tough.
Half of Tulsa Run participants are women, notes Nicholas, and Tulsa Tough has grown into a nationally-recognized cycling event in which there are many female participants.
We want to show the community that these are events that more women can get involved with; we want to create strategic partnerships to highlight events in the community; and we want to create the potential for more events that promote quality of life for women, she continues.
These goals fall right in line with AWE’s four subcommittees.
The “retain” subcommittee will focus on retaining athletic events and groups that contribute to the economic prosperity of Tulsa and empower women.
The “recruit” subcommittee will provide insight and connections to potential external markets and events that would be new to the Tulsa area, such as college sports tournaments, of which many Tulsa has played host.
In May, Tulsa hosted the 2014 NCAA Division I Women’s Golf Championships. Events on the horizon include the 2015 U.S. Girls’ Junior Golf Championship and the 2016 NCAA Division I Men’s and Women’s Tennis Championships.
The “develop” subcommittee will create new events, partnerships and activities to generate a core group of women’s athletic events.
The “enhance” subcommittee will work to create marketing and strategic partnerships to use sports-related assets to grow Tulsa’s brand awareness.
“We hope these four functions of the organization will help to broadcast Tulsa as a community for women’s sports,” Nicholas says.
When creating AWE, officials with the Sports Commission also looked at cities throughout the country that already have similar women’s sports groups, such as, in Kansas City, Win for KC.
“What that group does for the community is exciting,” says Nicholas. However, she stresses that AWE Tulsa will not be a copy of any other organization: “It was nice to see for ourselves the success of these programs in other communities, but we want AWE to be unique to Tulsa.”
However, the organization, instead of focusing solely on women’s sports, aims to serve a broader purpose, Marshall emphasizes. “The goal is to overall help women feel good.”