U of G celebrates reaching $2.5M milestone in ‘She’s Got Game’ initiative

GUELPH – She’s Got Game, an initiative at the University of Guelph (U of G) to advance gender equity and women in sport, has hit an important milestone reaching its entire $2.5-million fundraising goal.  

Launched in 2018, She’s Got Game was created to ensure equal access for women to athletic scholarships, development opportunities and recognition. 

It was the first and largest campaign of its kind in Canada and is built on three pillars of fundraising, policy and engagement. 

In six years, the initiative has raised a total of $2,520,613 and supported 550 student-athletes with She’s Got Game scholarships. 

Moreover, the Athletics Department has informed policy changes, raised awareness and engaged the broader community with new events and programs.   

In 2018, then-U of G provost Dr. Charlotte Yates committed to providing $225,000 over three years to the initiative. 

Most recently, Dr. Gwen Chapman, current provost and vice-president (academic), has renewed a $50,000 contribution for each of the next five years, for an additional $250,000.  

“The hard work and generosity of so many has made this incredible achievement possible,” said Dr. Charlotte Yates, U of G president and vice-chancellor. 

Beyond fundraising, the Athletics Department has instituted policy changes around equal pay, supported the hiring of two new women’s coaches and now boasts representation of women on every single coaching staff of the University’s women’s teams.   

“We are thrilled to reach this milestone, a goal that we set out six years ago to achieve when the program was little more than a vision,” said Scott McRoberts, U of G’s director of athletics.  

“As we celebrate this first chapter in what will be a long history of She’s Got Game, we use this fundraising milestone as a landmark to celebrate how far we have come and the changes we have implemented, while understanding there is still more work to be done.”  

Supporting women coaches

In the last six years, the department has supported the path to success for many women’s coaches:  

Katie Mora. Working with the Guelph Girls Hockey (GGHA) and recent assistant coach of FISU gold medal- winning women’s hockey team. Now in the role of interim women’s hockey head coach.  

Megan Reid. Hired as a collaboration with the Ontario Coaching Association which has now led to a full-time position as head coach of the women’s varsity basketball team.  

Rachel Flanagan. Currently on a one-year leave as head coach of the women’s hockey team to pursue a career in the Professional Women’s Hockey League (PWHL) as an assistant coach in Toronto. Recently worked as an assistant coach with the Canadian national women’s team for a pair of games against the U.S. in a rivalry series.  

Increasing scholarships for women athletes

Supporters have also answered the call to increase support for women student-athletes by establishing over 51 named scholarships, totalling 1,370 unique donors.

Valerie Lamenta, a former women’s hockey student-athlete and She’s Got Game scholarship recipient expressed her gratitude for the support she received.  

“Having a scholarship allowed me to be my best student-athlete self. I could be fully dedicated to my studies and my sport, while knowing that I had the support of my university. I could get involved in various initiatives, participate in development programs and mentor other student-athletes. And this was largely all possible because I did not have to limit myself due to financial concerns and hurdles.” 

Lamenta achieved a long list of accomplishments in her five years with the Gryphon women’s hockey program, including a nod as a U SPORTS Player of the Year in 2016, OUA Goaltender of the Year in 2019 and helped lead the team to three OUA Championship titles and the programs first ever national championship in program history in 2019.  

The now U of G alumna is currently working as an engineer in her hometown of Montreal, Quebec. 

She commented on the pride of being a Gryphon when the She’s Got Game initiative was announced in 2018.  

“The moment I came to Guelph, I immediately felt like I was a part of the community. And when the She’s Got Game initiative was announced, I felt like the entire community was supporting and celebrating all its amazing women, whether they were student-athletes, coaches, Jr. Gryphons, trainers or support staff,” said Lamenta.  

“I think this initiative is shining a well-deserved light on women’s athletics and everyone stands to benefit from it.” 

The milestone achievement was celebrated Saturday, Feb. 24 at the annual She’s Got Game Gala with over 200 supporters in attendance. 

Keynote speaker Jackie Boyle, an RBC Olympian and Team Canada cyclist, spoke to the crowd about her journey as a former U SPORTS student-athlete turned Olympic hopeful.

McRoberts said the Department of Athletics will continue to build on the solid foundation of the initiative from the last six years and that the journey is not over.  

Through She’s Got Game, he said the department hopes “to continue to fundraise for women’s sports and attract the best and brightest student-athletes and foster gender equity as we develop world class athletes, scholars and citizens.”