Bay Shore School District has established the first all-girls wrestling team in New York. In their first season, the girls expressed that they feel more connected with one another compared to playing other sports.
Coach Amber Atkins, a Bay Shore High School graduate who wrestled for both middle school and high school boys teams, formed the team. She said the girls practice each weekday in addition to participating in tournaments most Saturdays. If there is no tournament on a Saturday, the girls pick up an extra practice that week, she said. Atkins said that being the coach of the first all-girls wrestling team in the state is a great feeling.
“It is something I wish I had when I was younger,” she said of her dream come true. “I kind of take all those things I wish I had and I try to give it to the girls. It is tough sometimes, but I am super grateful for the opportunity.”
Girls from all over Suffolk County are eligible to join the team, as long as they have transportation. Roughly half the girls on the team are from Bay Shore, and the majority of the girls are relatively local.
Phillipa Pascale, a freshman from Babylon, makes her way to Fifth Avenue Elementary School after school every day to practice with the other 17 girls from around Suffolk County. Pascale has been wrestling for three years and has her fair share of experience in softball, tennis, track and softball.
“I actually switched to this sport completely,” she said. “This year, I decided to only do wrestling because I am on a club team also. It's the hardest sport.”
Pascale also emphasized that the team feels like family.
“You don't get that with many other sports. Going through the intensity of the sport, you are going through this with someone else together. It brings everyone together because we all know how hard it is. It is a shared experience,” she added.
Teammate Megan Leggio, a freshman from Bay Shore, echoed the sense of family Pascale felt.
“When I walked in, I thought it was going to be an individual sport. I thought it was going to be nothing like the family I have playing volleyball and softball. But it's even stronger than both those families combined. It's a really strong bond that we all have in the short period of time, and it is just going to get stronger over time,” Leggio explained of the new team. “We all work hard together, and it just makes the whole bond grow because we all struggle together and makes a difference around that.”
Leggio, who has been wrestling through the Kid Wrestling club program for several years, is a third-generation Bay Shore High School wrestler, as both her father and grandfather stood out as top performers. In fact, her grandfather established Kid Wrestling in Bay Shore in 1962, in the basement gym at Fifth Avenue Elementary School, where the girls practice.
Regarding being on the first all-girls wrestling team in New York, Leggio expressed gratitude for how far the sport has come.
“This team has become an inspiration for girls everywhere around the world,” she said. “I think it is a great thing, and it is going to build. These girls are amazing people and I love being on a team with them.”
Bay Shore superintendent Joseph Bond also expressed excitement for the new team and what it means for the girls to have this opportunity.
“Our girls wrestling team provides us an opportunity to empower our female athletes,” said Bond. “It gives me a sense of pride to see the team doing well and working hard in their first season. I hope that the team will continue to provide girls with an opportunity to participate in a challenging and rewarding sport for years to come.”