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Jan 31, 2023

Sophie Catalano – National Girls and Women in Sports Day

Sophie Catalano comes from generations of successful female athletes. With her grandmother being a two-sport athlete in college and her mother playing softball at the University of Michigan before becoming one of only six female athletic directors in a power five conference at the University of Pittsburgh, it’s safe to say she has some big shoes to fill. “My mother and grandmother have only impacted my college experience positively. The two of them have been my biggest role models. Seeing what they have done and how they have impacted sports is really inspiring.”

Like many college athletes, Catalano played numerous other sports before focusing her efforts on volleyball. “Growing up, I pretty much played everything: soccer, basketball, softball. When I was at an indoor soccer tournament, I saw these girls playing volleyball, and they invited me to play with them. It was a lot of fun, and my love grew from there.”

The nature of women’s sports has dramatically changed since her mother and grandmother’s time. Catalano has learned the most from when her grandmother played. In high school, her grandmother could not dribble the ball and could only play half-court because the administration did not believe women were capable of playing full-court. For her mother, if it ever snowed or rained in Michigan, the responsibility to cover the field landed on the softball team, while the baseball program had its own grounds crew to take care of the field. “Now female athletes get everything and more. Obviously, there are still stereotypes, but it has definitely come a long way.”

Since starting her collegiate career this past August, Catalano has seen first-hand how far women’s sports have come. “It has given me a lot of perspective. I am so lucky and grateful to be here: the resources we get and my entire experience at Clemson. Everyone here has taught me how much hard work pays off.”

Besides her mother and grandmother, Catalano pulls inspiration from athletes like Jordan Thompson and Sue Bird. Thompson is a professional volleyball player in Europe and currently plays for the United States National Volleyball Team. While in high school, Thompson played basketball in conjunction with volleyball, which reminds Catalano much of herself. Bird is one of the most decorated female basketball players ever. Bird played in the WNBA for the duration of her career from 2002-2022 and earned five Olympic gold medals as a part of Team USA. Catalano stresses the importance of female representation in athletics as the next generation of athletes develops.

The world of women’s sports is continually growing and building its audience. The future is bright with the development of more professional leagues and increased opportunities for youth athletes. “It is only going up from here. With social media and news coverage increasing, people take more notice of women’s sports than in the past. This growing popularity will only give more opportunities for the next generation…When people come to watch us play, they fall in love with the team and the sport.”

As for the next generation of female athletes, Catalano has some words of advice. “Keep working hard. Everything pays off. Do not look back. Take advantage of every experience you have.”