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Ravenscroft Celebrates Girls in Sports with Duke AD Nina King
Photos showing Nina King speaking and posing with students and members of the Athletics Department

Clockwise from top: Nina King addresses the assembly of Middle and Upper School girls; King answers questions and takes photos with Sydnee Jefferson Kearney ’​​​​​​23 and Tayla Nargassans ’​​​​​​23; King poses with Head of School Doreen Kelly, to her left, and members of the Athletics Department.

Ravenscroft celebrated National Girls and Women in Sports Day on Wednesday, Feb. 1, with an assembly featuring Duke University’s Director of Athletics Nina King. King spoke to Middle School and Upper School girls about her career and about the many ways they can enjoy the benefits of involvement in sports.

National Girls and Women in Sports Day highlights the achievements of female coaches and athletes and acknowledges the role of sports in developing, supporting and recognizing potential in all girls and women.

King was joined by Head of School Doreen Kelly and Athletic Director Ned Gonet — both of whom were collegiate athletes and have coached scholastic sports — as well as more than two dozen Ravenscroft faculty and staff who played sports in school. Many of them wore black T-shirts created to commemorate today’s event, emblazoned with the words, “All Girls. All Women. All Sports.”

Kelly, who introduced King, spoke first of how Title IX — the landmark 1972 federal legislation that protects people from discrimination based on sex in education programs or activities that receive federal financial assistance and is credited with opening up scholastic athletics to girls and young women — and the encouragement of high school coaches made it possible for her to earn a volleyball scholarship for college.

In her remarks, King echoed Kelly’s sentiments about the marked impact of Title IX on athletics, saying that it’s estimated that more than three million more opportunities for girls to participate in high school sports exist today as a result of the legislation.  

King was quick to point out that she herself was not a student-athlete. When she attended college at the University of Notre Dame, however, she got involved in their legendary athletics program as a student manager, eventually serving as the head manager for the women’s swimming and diving program. “I was able to be part of a team and realize the power and impact of collegiate sports,” she said. “It sparked in me a passion, and here I am now, just a few years later, working in sport, and I wouldn’t trade this career for any in the world.”

King was named Duke’s Vice President, Director of Athletics and Adjunct Professor of Business Administration in 2021, after 13 years on Duke Athletics’ executive leadership team. Prior to joining Duke University, she served as the Director of Rules Education in the Notre Dame Athletics Department from 2005 to 2008.

She encouraged the girls in attendance to consider the different ways they are positively impacted by sports, whether as players, team managers, cheerleaders, fans or simply through personal fitness activities and classes. “Sports give us so much,” she said. “Confidence. Strength. Resilience. Healthy habits. The beauty of competition. We learn team-building. We gain role models, and we become role models. The bottom line is, sports give us the tools we need to succeed in life.”

Students present at the assembly asked King questions about her career, including challenges she has faced as a woman in a historically male-dominated field. She shared stories about her experiences and noted that the qualities she looks for in a coach — empathy, flexibility and being task-oriented, among others — are very much the same qualities that make people successful in other careers and in life. (As Gonet noted in asking her a question on that topic, she was deeply involved in the search for a successor to longtime men’s basketball coach Mike Krzyzewski.)

The event was livestreamed and is available for replay.

The halftime celebration of National Girls and Women in Sports Day that had been planned for the Feb. 1 varsity girls basketball game against St. Mary’s has been postponed due to the game’s rescheduling. The celebration will take place next Friday, Feb. 10, during the game against Durham Academy.