Female athletes share insight on their athletic experiences

Female athletes dominating their sports share insight on their athletic experiences

In 1893, the first women’s basketball game was played (given men weren’t allowed to watch).

In 1900, women were able to participate in the Olympics. 

In 1973, Billie Jean King made tennis history by defeating male opponent, Bobby Riggs, and winning the ‘Battle of the Sexes.’ 

And most recently, this February, the US Women’s National Team and the US Soccer Federation settled an equal pay lawsuit, guaranteeing equal pay for men and women in US soccer. 

History has shown female athletes’ strive and success, despite facing hardship. According to some female athletes and their coaches at VHHS, female athlete’s successes and triumphs continue today.

Here are some female athletes at VHHS, who are dominating their sports.


Emily Hammond (9, she/her)

Sports: Soccer and volleyball 

Emily Hammond is a freshman soccer and volleyball player. She was very successful in these sports throughout middle school and received the  “Most Valuable Player” award in her 8th grade graduating class. 

Hammond’s passion for soccer and volleyball comes from her competitive spirit and drive “to be better than the day before.” Furthermore, Hammond believes everyone has a competitive side to them and by unleashing their “inner fire,” more girls will partake in sports. 

Hammond also shared that she feels there is a wrongful stigma that boys’ sports are harder than girls’ sports, and that boys are better at athletics. 

“I think [this stigma] is completely wrong because [girls] put the same amount of effort in their sports, and it goes under the radar compared to boys,” said Hammond. 

To fight this stigma, she believes that society needs to change the way women’s sports are viewed, whether that is by monetizing the sport or by showing that women can do exactly what men can do in sports.

 Hammond shared what she hopes to see in the future of women’s sports.

 “I definitely would like to see more crowds at games, because there is very little attendance for them, and I hope that women’s sports hits more mainstream media and at least has the same amount of coverage as men’s,” she said. 


Danielle Hewitt (12, she/her) 

Sports: Track and swimming

Danielle Hewitt is a senior who runs track and swims for VHHS.

Hewitt was a member of the Varsity swim team throughout sophomore, junior, and senior year. Her passion derives from the team aspect of sports, loving staying in shape, and the mental health aspect of sports.

“I know sports help a lot with my mental health, especially after long hard days at school,” said Hewitt. “Right when I get to my sport, all of that stress melts away, and I can focus on what I want to accomplish.” 

Hewitt also shared that while she has not felt bias against women’s sports personally, she feels there is a divide between men’s and women’s sports. 

“I feel there is quite a divide in sports between males and females, because we practice completely separately, and sometimes our seasons are at different times,” she said. 

Hewitt said that by letting girls know that anyone can play sports, more women would feel empowered to play.

 She dreams that in the future, everyone will feel comfortable participating in sports. Hewitt also hopes that more women will join sports as a thing to do for fun and liven their daily experience. 


Elli Amjadi (11, she/her)

Sport: Volleyball 

Elli Amjadi is a volleyball player, who plays the libero position. She has been playing on varsity since her freshman year. 

The libero was All-Conference in all three of her high school seasons and was chosen for the All-Area team this year. Amjadi shared that she aspires to play volleyball in college. 

Amjadi thinks there are many benefits to playing sports and hopes more people will play to reap these benefits. 

“Sports allow people to have a good time, it gives people an outlet, takes people away from the stress of normal life, family pressures, school, you get to hang out with friends, stay active and stay in shape. There’s lots of benefits,” she said. 

Amjadi said she hopes girls will attempt to try out for different sports, even if they start at a beginner level, because they may surprise themselves and find something they love and continue to do for a long time. 

Amjadi also shared her aspirations for women’s sports in the future. 

“I think everything should be equal, or as equal as we can get it. Equal participation for men and women in the Olympics, at the collegiate level, equal sports coverage, stuff like that,” she said. 


Noemi Ramirez (12, she/her)

Sport: Lacrosse 

Noemi Ramirez is a senior lacrosse player who is committed to play Division II lacrosse at Regis University. She played lacrosse at VHHS and at True Lacrosse in Naperville. 

Ramirez attributed her success to her coaches, friends, and parents. She emphasized her appreciation for her parents and thanked them for funding tournaments, flights, camps, and for trying to give her as much recruitment exposure as possible. 

“My dad put me in lacrosse,” said Ramirez. “ I didn’t really want to do it at first because it looked boring, but I’m so glad I did because I can’t imagine my life without it.”

From her experience in women’s lacrosse, Ramirez shared that she has noticed some bias. In the NCAA championship, she noticed more fans in the stadium for men’s games, more money invested for men, and less mainstream exposure for women.

“It hurt us a little bit, because we are as good as them,” said Ramirez. 

However she shared that changes have been made to balance the inequality in coverage for lacrosse, especially women’s. Ramirez said that ESPN has now added 450 women’s lacrosse games, which made her proud, since female lacrosse players have worked hard to get there. 

Ramirez also shared one of the ways women fight back against stigmas. 

“I feel like a lot of people view women as ‘oh they’re not the sporty type,’ or ‘they can’t do sports,’ so when we play and show our skills on the field, everyone is wowed and we can respond to ‘oh I didn’t think she played’ by showing them up and saying, ‘yeah we do play,’” said Ramirez. 


Piper Bedell (College Junior, she/her) 

Sports: Basketball, volleyball, cross country, and soccer 

Piper Bedell is a junior at Auburn University and is a VHHS alumna. Bedell played soccer and basketball through all four years at Vernon Hills. She took up volleyball during her freshman year and cross country in her sophomore through senior years. 

Bedell also played club soccer for Cougars Soccer Club and AAU basketball for Full Package. 

Recently, Bedell has played intramural soccer and intramural basketball with her sorority, Delta Gamma. 

Bedell shared that the lessons she learned from high school sports stuck with her to college. These included time management, coachability, teamwork, and how to ask for help.

From her experience, Bedell also shared that there were some challenges to being a female athlete, which included a difference in fanbase support between mens’ and womens’ sports. 

“There is a little bit of a stigma between mens’ versus womens’ sports, but I would say that even though there are some challenges, women are absolutely able to power through those.”

Bedell shared that one of her favorite quotes that inspires to fight these challenges is by Drew Brees, a recently retired quarterback for the New Orleans Saints.

“Brees said ‘You can accomplish anything if you are willing to work for it’, so I would also say to female athletes if you are willing to work for it, you can achieve any of your goals.” 

Bedell emphasized that women should stick with their sports and not bow down to pressures. She also felt that “leading by example,” would lead to more women feeling empowered to try out for sports. 

Bedell also proposed playing alongside boys’ teams, to fight back against the stigma. 

“My AAU team was great because we had Co-ed practices. Co-ed practices are cool because you are able to go right up against the guys and get to prove your worth and that you are a lot better than some of the guys there,” said Bedell. 


Coach Abbie Gutzmer (Assistant volleyball coach, she/her)

Sports: Basketball and volleyball

Abbie Gutzmer is the assistant girls’ varsity volleyball coach at VHHS. She also played Division I basketball for Marquette University from 1996-2000. 

According to the Marquette website, Gutzmer (then Willenborg), was the 64th pick by the Houston Comets in the 2000 WNBA draft. 

The website also stated that Gutzmer ranks 4th in all-time leading scorers with 1,818 points and remains the all time leading rebounder for the university with 1,167 rebounds.

 Gutzmer led the team to four straight NCAA tournament appearances, earned an All-Conference USA Freshman team selection, All-Conference USA selections three years in a row, and was a second-team Women’s Basketball News Service All-American in the 1999-2000 season. 

“That was probably one of the best times of my life in sports, not just because we were pretty good and made it to the NCAA tournament those four years, but the bonds that I formed with teammates [made it memorable],” she said. 

Gutzmer shared that this sense of community is one of the biggest benefits of playing sports. 

“The most fun part about it is that you can take differences and bring them together into a gym or onto a court. Those differences on the court or gym no longer matter. What matters is you’re there for one another,” she said. 

Gutzmer said that while there was no prejudice against female athletes that hindered her performance as a coach or athlete, sometimes it felt like female athletics didn’t get as much attention as men’s athletics. 

However, Gutzmer emphasized that in recent years, as girls’ sports have become more competitive, recognition has come with.

“I definitely think female athletes forged their own way, which is nice to see. Not really worrying about what other people are giving them or taking away. Just coming in everyday and committing to the activity, whatever it may be, and wanting to get better,” she said.

To empower more girls to join sports, Gutzmer said that it’s important to continue to provide opportunities for girls to play and encourage girls to stay involved by celebrating every success. 

“We just need to keep giving women those opportunities to see that they can shine. Whether it’s winning a state championship or scoring your first goal, both of those are successes to be celebrated,” she said.


A male coach perspective

Paul Brettner (he/him), head varsity girls’ basketball coach,  said his approach to coaching female athletes has always been to treat them like athletes. 

“From day one, I have told them that I was going to coach them like athletes, because they deserve that… They want to play the sport, they want to play as hard as they can, they want to compete as hard as they can, and they want to be put in a position to succeed,” he said. 

Brettner shared that a challenge he has seen in female athletics is turnout. According to Brettner, there are fewer female athletes trying out for sports, due to specialization in one sport and Covid.

“Covid really hit female athletes harder than male athletes. Unfortunately, I think in the time we were in quarantine and closed off, less females did stuff pertaining to their sport,” said Brettner. 

Brettner shared that at both the high school and younger level, the program has been working to encourage female athletes to rejoin basketball and spark their interest again. 

In addition, as a whole, Brettner feels VHHS athletics have done a great job of providing equal opportunity for men’s and women’s sports. 

“Over the years, I feel like we’ve done a pretty good job of making sure there’s opportunities for everyone. And if there’s ever a moment where I say ‘hey my kids in my program aren’t getting what other programs are getting,’ it gets rectified pretty quickly,” said Brettner. 

Brettner added that success looks different for every team, but the goal is to maximize every athlete’s potential.