By J. Fred Sidhu, special to USTA.com
Indian Wells, Calif. –
The USTA Northern California Section women’s 5.0 team is playing for a cause while they are competing at this weekend’s League National Championships at the Indian Wells Tennis Garden.
The team, which played its league matches at the Courtside Club in Los Gatos, is raising awareness for a public benefit, nonprofit corporation known as the Bay Area Women’s Sports Initiative (BAWSI).
Olympic and World Cup soccer stars Brandi Chastain, Julie Foudy and Marlene Bjornsrud, a former general manager of a women’s professional soccer team, founded BAWSI in 2005 with a mission to create programs and partnerships through which women athletes bring health, hope and wholeness to Bay Area communities.
"We’re trying to promote it on a local level as well in the Bay Area and hopefully have it be a mission nationally about women who have excelled in sports giving back to women athletically or otherwise," said Anne Kerwin Payne, a member of the Northern California women’s 5.0 team.
Since it was founded, BAWSI has established programs such as the BAWSI Girls Program, a free weekly after-school program that helps elementary school girls develop self-esteem and good health practices from role models and Salud por Vida, which is designed for women in communities where obesity and diabetes are prevalent due to a lack of fitness opportunities.
The organization also created a Dads and Daughters Program, which creates opportunities for fathers to bond with daughters through participating in sports together and attending women’s athletic events.
According to Kerwin Payne, there is a real need for programs such as these, especially in the inner-city areas. "When you see it in action, it’s amazing. The girls just love it. The school principals love it. They’re begging us to come to schools."
In a show of support for BAWSI, each member of the Northern California women’s 5.0 team donned a cap sporting the BAWSI logo during the League National Championships.
The team members are: Captain Kristen Hildebrand, Leslie Airola Murveit, Lisa Swenson, Erin Green, Anne Kerwin Payne, Shelly Bartlett Sweeney, Elizabeth Marie Sordyl and Lindsay Bartlett Montero.
"We just decided as a team…to get some hats and try to raise awareness with the other players coming across the nation," Kerwin Payne said. "We want to create a movement of women giving back to women. It’s very grass-roots and it’s all based on fundraising and money."
BAWSI also serves as an advocate for social and policy issues that impact the lives of girls and women in sport.
For more information on the Bay Area Women’s Sports Initiative go to: www.bawsi.org