Susan Crownover, keynote speaker
Girls Preparatory School celebrated the 38th annual National Girls and Women in Sports Day by hosting a breakfast for all of its student-athletes on Wednesday. Established by the Women's Sports Foundation, NGWSD honors the achievements of girls and women in sports and continues to lead girls forward by acknowledging the power of sports to unlock their limitless potential.
The breakfast event, organized by GPS Director of Athletics Jay Watts, was designed to recognize the hard work and dedication that is given by the girls in the 16 varsity and 12 middle school sports offered by the school. GPS student-athletes were encouraged to invite an adult in their life who has impacted their sports career, such as a parent, guardian, or coach.
Dressed down in pink and red as part of the week’s Galentine’s Day celebrations, 175 student-athletes and invited guests gathered in the dining hall for a tasty brunch buffet prepared by our SAGE dining team as they heard from featured speaker, Susan Crownover.
Coach Crownover, as most know her, retired from GPS in 2022 after 31 years of service as a PE teacher and coach. During her tenure, GPS won two basketball state championships and eight softball state championships. In fact, to this day, GPS holds a record for the most runs scored in a state tournament softball game with 60. In 2022, she was inducted into the GPS Athletic Hall of Fame.
In her keynote, Coach Crownover spoke about her time as an athlete in high school and college. In high school, she joked the only game she remembered the score of was the basketball state championship game her senior year. (They lost 48-46 and she still refuses to watch the game footage.)
“I played terribly, fouled out, let my team down,” she said. “I was embarrassed and angry. It took me two weeks to get over, but it was a great learning experience for later in life. That’s what sports are for. Yeah, they’re about winning, that’s why there's a scoreboard, don’t get me wrong, but it’s how they prepare you for later.”
Coach Crownover says she always knew she wanted to be a coach, so when a recurring knee injury sidelined her after her first year playing college ball, the coach who had recruited and signed her kept her on as a student assistant, and she was able to learn the ins and outs of coaching from the best seat in the house.
Her time in college athletics left her wondering why women’s sports were always given less importance than her male counterparts. “I was always wondering why the guys got to play in the arena and we didn’t,” she said. “We were very successful as a program, but we were always second behind the men. You don’t have that problem here. GPS is a school for girls, and this place does everything for you to make you better. It makes you better students, better people, better athletes, better artists.”
Next, she mentioned some of the impressive female college athletes today, such as Caitlin Clark (Iowa), who is about to break the all-time scoring record for college basketball for women and possibly men; Angel Reese (LSU), whose national championship led to nearly $2 million in NIL (name, image, and likeness) deals; and JuJu Watkins (USC), who as a freshman recently put up 51 points on a team. “Women are doing bigger and better things all the time,” Coach Crownover said, “and they’re opening more and more doors for girls like you.”
In closing, Coach Crownover encouraged the student-athletes to dedicate time to their academics, to being good people, and to appreciate all that GPS has given to them. “Take everything you can get from it, but give back to it. Give back now and give back later for the ones that come after you,” she said.
GPS has been a constant innovator of advancements of female sports in Hamilton County, starting with establishing the first girls’ basketball league in the city in 1909. That would begin a series of firsts for the school that would later include the first girls’ golf team in 1974, the first girls’ rowing team in 1994, and the first girls’ lacrosse team in 2005. In 2022, the school launched the first girls’ squash team in the state of Tennessee, which allowed girls to compete in a sport not previously offered.
GPS Athletics provides the whole girl advantage, which allows female athletes to be seen as more than just competitors. Development of players is individualized and intentional to consider their girls' physical, mental, and emotional needs. GPS student athletes participate in an athletic program that includes a mission of being team players, understanding the importance of mental toughness, accepting challenges enthusiastically, and finding value in strength, fitness, stamina, and mental toughness.
Four members of the GPS Athletic Hall of Fame were in attendance