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In Their Words: Hear From Female Student-Athletes at Northern Arizona University

Gregory Garlock

As I know from my own experience as a former Division I student-athlete, the physical, mental, and emotional demands placed on college athletes can be daunting, and those demands have grown significantly in the decades since. As a designer specializing in sports facilities, I lean on my own experiences as a collegiate student-athlete to create impactful environments that benefit the whole person — not just the athletic side of the equation — regardless of program, ability, or gender.

Northern Arizona University female student athlete golfing in desert region in front of mountains

Photo courtesy of Northern Arizona University

As I mentioned in my other post, I am an avid proponent of Title IX and the opportunities the amendment has provided in the past and continues to present for current and future female student-athletes. Through my professional experiences, I’ve seen first-hand how the legislation has provided not only pathways but, more importantly, the tools that allow them to thrive athletically and academically to become successful in life when done competing.

In commemoration of the 50th anniversary of Title IX, I was fortunate to sit down with golfer Ekaterina Malakhova and basketball player Regan Schenck from Northern Arizona University to discuss the role the recently opened Student-Athlete High Performance Center is playing in their personal journey as a collegiate athlete.

How does NAU’s new Student-Athlete High Performance Center enhance your experience as a female student-athlete?

EM: The new center provides me with the facilities and resources that allow me to thrive both athletically and academically.

RS: The center enhances my experience as a female student-athlete in many ways. It provides us with access to top-of-the-line workout equipment, open access throughout the day, and the Wiseman Fueling Station which allows us to help meet our nutritional needs. It is great to see men’s and women’s sports being provided the same amenities because it allows us to have an equal opportunity to develop and grow in our chosen sport.

What is your favorite area/offering in the new center and why?

EM: My favorite area is the Wiseman Fueling Station. The ability to grab a snack or breakfast after lifting weights is one of my favorite parts of the building. Along with the food, it is also a great place to hang out and meet other athletes.

RS: My favorite offering is the Michael E. Nesbitt Athletic Training Center. Recovery is one of the most important parts of being an athlete, no matter at which level you play. NAU has provided its athletes with top-of-the-line equipment, which allows us to treat any injuries we may endure and provides the ability to come back to full strength faster. In return, we can perform at our highest ability on the court, and in the Jennifer Marie Wilson Strength and Conditioning Center. In addition, the special amenities such as the cold tub, hot tub, and underwater treadmill gives all athletes the ability to recover – no matter the time of the day.


Northern Arizona University female student athlete golfing on green grassy golf course

Photo courtesy of Northern Arizona University

Why is it important to you, as a female student-athlete, that this new facility accommodates all men’s and women’s programs?

EM: I find it very important for the center to serve all male and female competitors. It is important to show equality for both men’s and women’s sports within the department. This Student-Athlete High Performance Center is unique in that sense. There are not many universities that have incorporated this type of facility on campus.

RS: It is super important that this new facility accommodates both men’s and women’s programs because it shows us that NAU cares about every single person apart from their athletic programs. Providing teams with the same resources no matter the size or success the team brings to the university shows us that we are being treated equally and are cared for more than what we bring to the table athletically.

What advice would you give your younger self regarding becoming a student-athlete?

EM: If I could give my younger self advice about being a student-athlete, I would say to be prepared for the time commitment. Being a student-athlete is both extremely hard and rewarding, but you must be willing to commit a lot of effort and time.

RS: Looking back, I would tell myself to work hard consistently, and let myself know the importance of taking care of my body so I can perform at the highest level possible every time I am on the court.

Northern Arizona University female student athlete high fiving during basketball game on court basket upper right

Photo courtesy of Northern Arizona University

What advice would you give young aspiring/future NAU female student-athletes?

EM: Some advice that I would give to future female Lumberjack student-athletes is to never be afraid to ask for help, or advocate for yourself. There are so many people willing to help.

RS: I would say to focus on how you can positively contribute to not only yourself but your team’s success. Don’t worry about what other people think or may say about your personal achievements. Stay focused on what matters and work hard, and the rest will fall in place.

Which athletes did you look up to growing up and why?

EM: My entire life I have looked up to and found inspiration in Tiger Woods. His love and dedication for the game is unlike any other.

RS: There isn’t a specific athlete I looked up to when growing up, however, I gravitated towards watching the level of basketball above me. When I was in middle school, I attended all the girls high school basketball games. At AAU tournaments, I watched the games where girls were playing in the highest divisions. I focused on players who were a level or two above me to see what I had to do to reach that level of play.

Photo courtesy of Northern Arizona University

Which athletes give you inspiration now and why?

EM: Again, I would say Tiger Woods. He inspires me to never give up and keep pushing no matter how hard it may get.

RS: There are a ton of athletes who give me inspiration, especially the female athletes who have begun paving the way for equality in professional sports – whether that’s soccer, tennis, basketball, or any sport. I find inspiration in those athletes who have reached the professional level and use their platform as a place to help shine light on the variance between men’s and women’s sports while continuing to push themselves to be the best in their sport.

What is the greatest impact of Title IX in your own words?

EM: I believe the greatest impact of Title IX is the transparency that had to be created within athletic programs regarding equality between men’s and women’s sports.

RS: I believe the greatest impact of Title IX is the increased participation of girls and women in athletics.

Read my Q+A with integrated design professionals across DLR Group who share their opportunities as female student-athletes.


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