The BYU women's basketball team celebrates a point in the WCC Tournament. (Decker Westenburg)

Opinion: Finding hope through BYU women’s basketball

Earlier this year my husband and I found out that our first child would be a daughter. The joy I felt was inconceivable but was quickly replaced by fear. Raising a girl is one of the scariest things I have ever done. As someone who has experienced gender-based discrimination and harassment, I was terrified to take on the responsibility of bringing another girl into this world.

Soon after finding out we were having our daughter, I accepted the job as a photography editor at The Daily Universe. I had the wonderful opportunity to photograph every home game of the historic 25-2 BYU women’s basketball season, given the nickname early of “the greatest show on Earth.” For me, this experience was life-changing and truly was the greatest show in my world at the time.

I watched in awe as a record-breaking crowd of more than 6,000 fans cheered on the team as they “slew” Gonzaga on Senior Night. A crowd like this for a women’s sport was something I never imagined seeing. I couldn’t believe how lucky I was to document it with my daughter.

Despite how amazing it was to see a large crowd show up for this team, that was not what made this season incredible. The moments that made this season incredible for me happened on the sideline of each game and during the “in-between” moments.

Maria Albiero lays the ball up against Gonzaga on Senior Night. (Decker Westenburg)

I was inspired as I watched the NIL deals begin to roll in for female athletes across campus, further setting the standard of equity in athletics. I was inspired time and time again as I listened to Tegan Graham continually advocate for accountability across women’s athletics.

Watching this group of women encourage each other over the course of the last six months has been a reminder to me of how powerful we are when we come together.

None of the opportunities that these phenomenal female athletes or I have had would have been possible without the women who encouraged us and came before us.

This year marks 50 years since the landmark federal law Title IX was signed. The law banned sex-based discrimination in federally funded programs and knocked down barriers preventing female participation across society. Title IX expanded women’s athletic opportunities to new levels that were once unheard of.

We have come a long way in the last 50 years and I know we have so much further to go, but there is no way for me to adequately express my gratitude for the privileged opportunity to document this team from the sidelines while carrying my daughter.

I can’t believe I get to bring her into a world where women like Tegan Graham exist and where women’s participation in sports and activities is prioritized more than ever before.

Great things happen when groups of women come together and that is exactly what happened here. Truly, you may not have realized it at the time, but we were watching the greatest show on earth.

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