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Oregon's "Women in Flight" program gets off the ground
Courtesy: GoDucks.com
Release Date: 02/03/2014
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By Rob Moseley
Editor, GoDucks.com

The Oregon lacrosse team is set to open the season Sunday at Stetson, and with less than a week to go Ducks coach Jen Beck is feeling good about her squad’s chemistry and mental toughness.

In part, that’s because of the experience the UO lacrosse team had last fall enduring “The Program,” a military-style training seminar designed to strengthen those very characteristics.

“We’re still feeling the repercussions and benefits of that now,” Beck said last week.

Facilitating more frequent experiences like that will be a key component of the athletic department’s new Women in Flight program. The initiative will also include a fundraising component for UO women’s teams, and is being launched thanks to a gift from Oregon alumnus Dave Petrone and his wife, Nancy, who were recognized both at a university event and separately by the athletic department at ceremonies last week.

Women in Flight could prove to be a transformative initiative for the Ducks’ 11 female programs.

“My hope is that the level of awareness increases for the women’s teams,” said senior associate athletic director Lisa Peterson, the department’s senior women’s administrator. “And also that we can offer support for some things they don’t get to do annually.”

Former UO softball player and director of women’s basketball operations Janell Bergstrom Cook is returning to the athletic department in a part-time role to head the Women in Flight initiative.

“I’m really excited that, for people with interest in women’s sports, there are now more resources to connect interested parties to our programs,” Bergstrom Cook said. “We have a lot of really amazing young women and really amazing constituents – donors, former letter winners, professionals in the community – who will have more chances to collaborate, network and, ultimately, strengthen Oregon.”

The Petrones are long-time donors to both the university’s academic mission and also athletics, and the parents of three daughters have taken a particular interest in women’s sports.

The idea for the Women in Flight program was initially generated during a casual conversation between Dave Petrone and Duck Athletic Fund staff at the 2013 Fiesta Bowl. Over the next 10 months, the DAF’s senior director of development, Kim Murray, and others researched similar programs at schools including USC and Arizona State, and made a presentation of their findings in October.

“I left with the thought, ‘Here’s what we want to do – if we can devise a program that makes sense,’” Petrone said. “When they came back in October, it hit it right on the button.”

Petrone sees his family’s donation as “seed money” for the program, which could serve as an entry in particular for female alumni and female donors back into the athletic department.

“I really want our school to be excellent,” Petrone said. “I think we are an excellent athletic department, one of the best parts of the university. This would just be another spoke to the excellence. And wouldn’t it be great to be a model, like we are a model for so many other things in athletics today?”

Along with attracting new donors, Women in Flight is intended to facilitate more opportunities like “The Program,” which also worked with the volleyball and women’s basketball teams in the past year, and can cost several thousand dollars per team.

Women in Flight could also facilitate more frequent trips overseas for women’s programs, both for competitive tours and service trips.

“I’ve been around teams where you’ve got a lot of talent and no team chemistry, and they’re not very successful, and I’ve been around teams with OK talent and a lot of chemistry that have been very successful,” Peterson said. “This hopefully will be big for chemistry. I’d like to think we could see results in both wins and losses as well as the student-athlete experience.”

For more information or to participate in Women in Flight, check out the program's web site.

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