Pirates Celebrate 35th Annual National Girls & Women in Sports Day
By: Adam Pasquale Jr.
February 3, 2021
February 3rd, 2021, will mark the 35th Annual National Girls & Women in Sports Day. The day recognizes the contributions of women’s sports to the country and the need for women’s sports to be advanced further.
Over the years, the day has also evolved into an event to acknowledge the accomplishments of female athletes, the positive influence of sports participation, and the continuing struggle for equality for women in sports. It honors not only the achievements of women athletes but also women coaches and leaders.
I recently had the opportunity to interview several women from the Massachusetts Pirates personnel. From front-office workers, cheerleaders, and game-day operations, the Pirates are beyond happy to employ many women in their organization and want to help further the recognition of women and girls in the sports world.
The first woman I was able to speak with from the organization was Brittany Fuller. Fuller is the director of ticket sales and helps assist fans on game days. She attended Mitchell College, where she studied sports management with a business minor. Her love for sports came from being around them her entire life. She played basketball from a young age up to college and is inspired by the way sports can bring others together no matter the differences.
“Sports is a male-dominated industry, I realized that right off the bat. Not until recently did you see more and more females breaking into positions that are making a true impact and that gives me and future females the ability to make a difference,” Fuller told masspiratesfootball.com. “I hope one day to be in a position where young females can look up to my journey and realize the only challenges women face in the sports industry is overcoming the objections and focus on making an impact.”
Women have an uphill battle when it comes to breaking into the sports industry. When asked about those challenges, Fuller knew from the start she had a lot to overcome.
Fuller wants women to be fearless and understand their values when facing adversity. Her advice to other women is simple: be yourself and keep pushing.
“My best advice to young aspiring women is not to be scared of being part of something that you see value in. Be a leader that creates goals for yourself,” she stated. “You might get knocked down or feel defeated but you must strive past that and focus on improving. Make yourself adaptable and you can do great things.”
The next woman I connected with is Emily Bussell, the director of group sales for the Pirates. Bussell has been surrounded by sports her entire life, as she was a three-sport athlete in high school playing softball, basketball, and volleyball. Outside of high school, she played on a travel softball team and even took up kickboxing. She attended Southern New Hampshire University before transferring to Rhode Island College to complete her bachelor’s degree in marketing following her freshman year.
Bussell is aware of the difficulties women face every day, especially in a sports environment. However, she says the Pirates’ environment is stress and worry-free and they do a great job of assisting her.
“The Pirates community always sets me up with the tools I need to succeed, which is very important during these times where it is increasingly difficult to be successful in any line of work. The staff is always there for me and they make my job very enjoyable.”
She wants women in the future to be confident in themselves and to know that they can achieve anything they put their minds to.
“Women face more pushback in this industry and you have more eyes on you at all times. But, you can’t be afraid to try and put yourself out there. You have to take a risk and continue to work hard until you get to where you want to be.”
For the next interview, I got in touch with the Director of Community Outreach, Julia Burkhardt. She started with the Pirates back in 2019 as a marketing intern. Burkhardt received her bachelor’s degree in psychology from Harvard University and a graduate certificate in digital marketing from Cornell University. She grew up playing soccer, basketball, and track. Her love for sports comes from hiking during her childhood and her interest in head trauma injuries as a kid. She also credits growing up in Massachusetts to her sports passion, as seemingly every year at least one team from the state is in the finals of their respected sport.
For Burkhardt, the biggest challenge she believes women face is being prepared and knowledgeable about sports. In a sports environment, she thinks that women need to go the extra mile to prove their worth.
“I think the largest challenge is just proving that you ‘know your stuff’. I have a lot of men make comments to me acting like I only got this job because I am a woman and I don’t know anything about sports. I think the major challenge is just making sure you always are well prepared and knowledgeable about what you are going into. That being said, also being able to admit when you are wrong is important.”
As a woman, it can be difficult to feel supported by coworkers in a highly competitive industry like sports. But for Burkhardt, it is the complete opposite.
“The Pirates are like one big family and I think that’s the main reason I always feel supported. We always have each other’s back whether it’s giving each other rides, getting each other lunch, or going out after work together,” she said. “A lot of us became friends outside of work so it is super nice getting to talk and bond over mutual experiences. Though it is a male-dominated sport, there are more and more women breaking into the scene and that is an added layer of support in itself.”
Following the interview with Burkhhardt, I was able to contact Katrina, a member of the Massachusetts Pirates Cheerleading Team. Katrina’s love for sports began when she was only two years old after her parents enrolled her in a dance class. She has been dancing for 20 years now and recently picked up rowing in college. She is currently finishing up her undergraduate studies to earn a bachelor’s degree with a health science major, psychology minor, and women in leadership certificate. Katrina has always been super active and driven and she enjoys setting goals for herself and working towards them.
For younger girls hoping to follow in her shoes, Katrina advises them to have thick skin and drown out the outside noise.
“People are going to try to categorize you or put you into a box. Some might tell you that you’re too short, some might tell you that you’re too tall. Some might tell you to lose weight, others might tell you to gain it. Here’s the thing: there IS no box,” says Katrina. “The ball is in your court. You are your only limit. Push yourself, but don’t forget to treat your mind and body with kindness. Use your sport to not only grow your skill and athleticism but also to grow who you are as a person. I cannot emphasize this enough: keep going!”
Achieving your goals requires lots of hard work and dedication. In most cases, women have to take the extra step to get the attention of a boss or leader. Katrina believes this is one of the main challenges women face today in the sports industry.
“Both in and out of sports, I’ve realized that I’ve needed to work harder to be heard and respected and to have my skills and contributions taken seriously. This is something that a lot of women in athletics can relate to as we are often not taken seriously initially; gaps in wages, sponsors, training times, facilities, and equipment, are all things that women in sports are challenged with. It’s during these times where I think it’s especially important to remember your purpose. Women must remain clear in their purposes and what they’re trying to achieve to be successful in getting what they want and deserve.”
For the final interview, I got to speak with Megan, who is also a member of the cheerleading team and has been dancing her entire life. She plans on graduating this summer with a bachelors in dance with a concentration in pedagogy. Megan credits her love of sports to all the times she and her family hung out to watch games throughout her childhood.
For Megan, working in the sports industry is a dream come true. She loves the intensity and energy the job brings, especially on game days.
“I love the energy that is brought to game days! With this being my rookie year on the team, I’m looking forward to being on the field instead of the stands this year. The energy and excitement that loyal fans bring to each game is exhilarating and I can’t wait to feed off of that energy and dance my heart out at the DCU Center!”
Going into a new job or environment can be difficult for anyone, especially for a woman entering the sports world. But for Megan, the strong support for her fellow dancers has made the transition a wonderful experience.
“With meeting our coach this year, I immediately felt so welcomed into the Pirates community and supported as a woman. We share the same morals in believing that cheerleaders are so much more than beautiful girls that cheer on the players,” Megan stated. “The 2021 Pirates Cheer Team is full of not only beautiful, but intelligent, hard-working, and passionate young ladies, and I am honored to be among them. The environment that I feel when with the organization is so warm and welcoming, and the office staff view us as their equals instead of dancers that are below them, and that is so important to understand.”
It was an honor to have the opportunity to interview these great women and get a glimpse at what they deal with as a female in the sports industry. The Pirates are committed to making the sports environment a safe place to work no matter what differences separate us. The organization hopes that bringing these stories to light will have a positive impact on the movement that is National Girls and Women in Sports Day.
About The Massachusetts Pirates
The Massachusetts Pirates are members of the Indoor Football League (IFL). The Pirates play all home games at the DCU Center located at 50 Foster St. Worcester, MA. 01608. For more information on the Massachusetts Pirates please call (508) 452-MASS (6277), email email@example.com or visit http://www.masspiratesfootball.com. Single-game tickets will be available shortly online at ticketmaster.com or the DCU Center Box Office. For season, half-season, luxury, or group ticket packages please call 508-452-MASS (6277). Follow the Pirates on Facebook via Facebook.com/MAPirates, Instagram @mass.pirates, and Twitter @mass_pirates. #GetHooked #AllAboard