FAMU athletics kicks off February with ‘Women in Sports’ panel

Women in sports panel. Photo courtesy: FAMU Athletics

Florida A&M University athletics kicked off the new month by celebrating National Girls and Women in Sports Day with a special panel discussion. 

In partnership with the FAMU Developmental Research School, the panel highlighted the importance and overall need of women in sports. The discussion took place in the FAMU DRS cafeteria and featured players and coaches from both schools. 

The energy in the room was lively from the start, as FAMU DRS students were excited to be a part of the discussion. 

The panel began with an opening statement from FAMU athletics Director of Special Projects and Marketing, Ria Floyd. Floyd started by highlighting and explaining to the students what it means to be a woman in the sports industry.

“We are the backbone of sports, whether it be athletes, coaches, athletic directors, or support staff. Sports would not be what it is today without women,” Floyd said. 

The panel included coaches and athletes from both schools, such as Head FAMU cheer/spirit Coach Brandi Tatum-Fredrick, Head girls basketball Coach at FAMU DRS, Ericka Cromartie, and Melkayla Irvis, a fourth-year health science major and a softball player at FAMU. The overall message for the panel was to speak up and advocate for each other. 

Coach Ericka Cromartie, who won back-to-back state championship titles in 2015 and 2016 for FAMU DRS, left the audience with a great message as she explained how she began her journey in sports as a young child. 

“When I was younger, I always enjoyed playing basketball on the outdoor courts with the older kids, and I always enjoyed beating them, and I think that’s what helped me take the game of basketball seriously at such a young age,” Cromartie said. “Find a sport that you love and stick to it.”

During the panel, fourth-year softball player Melkayla Irvis spoke about being a student-athlete and balancing social life, school, and mental health. 

“Being an athlete is hard work. You have to be able to have the energy, work ethic, and everything else that goes into playing at the collegiate level, but when my days get rough, I lean on my teammates,” Irvis said. “They do a great job of encouraging me and making sure I understand that I’m not on this journey alone.”

Tiffani Dawn Sykes, the Vice President and Director of Intercollegiate Athletics, concluded the panel discussion with inspiring closing remarks. Sykes has made history of her own on the highest of seven hills as she is currently the first woman to serve as the Director of FAMU Athletics. 

As she wrapped up the panel, Sykes spoke about the importance of the event and the overall need for women in sports for generations to come.

“There are places for women in every aspect of sports, and getting young ladies to understand that during this panel was really one of our key missions,” explained Sykes. “When I was a little girl, all I knew about were coaches and players. I didn’t know that women could be broadcasters or VPs of professional sports teams, so it was really important to give these girls exposure and show them, they can do anything they want to do within the sports industry.”