CLEVELAND — Barb Anthony has boxes full of photos from when she played sports competitively.
“I grew up around sports my entire life. So, I’ve done almost everything," Anthony said while holding one her pictures.
In fact, Anthony said she’s played almost every sport under the sun. From dance to basketball as a kid, to rowing and water polo as a collegiate athlete. She said she struggled with not being on a team as an adult.
“Once you stop playing in college or stop playing a professional sport or high school sport, it becomes less important,” Anthony said.
Anthony co-founded the Northeast Ohio Women’s Sports Alliance to fix that need. The alliance gives adult women a chance to continue playing their sport recreationally once opportunities in high school and college end.
“Typically, this age group supports everybody else’s sporting experience,” Anthony said. “We support youth. We support our children. We support teams. We’re coaches. We also are then spectators and fans for elite sports and professional sports. But there’s not a lot of support for own activity.”
By day, Anthony works as a social worker. She said the alliance allows her to combine her passion for sports with social work to give women an outlet for their mental and physical health.
“Women in particular have additional barriers to participate on a team in this age and in this stage of life. So, the organization was built upon that,” Anthony said. “There are women out there trying to play a sport. We need to promote that and bring awareness to it.”
She said her background in creating community-based programming in her career prepared her to advocate for recreational women’s sports.
"My parents come from families of athletes, and they are also athletes themselves. So to some extent, they parented me with an athletic mindset, I think. So, part of who I am, that's how I think," Anthony added.
When Anthony has the time, she’ll watch some of the teams that her organization promotes, like the Cleveland Water Polo Club.
“Watching water polo here, you know, face to face, reminds of being in college,” Anthony said, sitting by the pool.
She said it makes her work all worthwhile to see women be able to continue playing the sport they love.
“This is what I think it’s all about. We’re playing this here now for fun, for heath, for social, for our mental health,” Anthony said. “I love being here. I’m so glad that this team exists. I’m so glad that NOWSA supports them.
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