Leaney Recieves Special Merit Award at Capitol

By Jamie Macpherson

On Wednesday, the newly retired women’s soccer coach, John Leaney, traded in his trademark uniform of blue sweats for a more formal suit. In a ceremony at the State Capitol, Leaney was honored for his 21 years of service as head coach of the women’s soccer team. Leaney, who coached the women through 299 career wins, was given a Special Merit Award as part of the National Women and Girls in Sports Day. He was one of three men to be honored with an award.”It’s a surprise in a way,” he said. “You usually assume most [recipients] would be women. It’s a extra privilege when you’re male and they’ve said you’ve [made a contribution] to women’s sports.”

The event, currently in its 24th year of existence, is put on by the Women’s Sport Foundation, in commemoration of Title IX. It’s a day, which aims to “nationally recognize the community and personal impacts of . women and men who have helped to advance and encourage girls and women in sports.” Other awards at the event include the Media Award, given to a member of the press who has significantly covered women’s sports, and the Breaking Barriers Award, that recognizes individuals who demonstrate athletic leadership within the community.

The theme for this year was “Stay Strong, Play On.” Leaney said many of the speeches focused on the fact that while a lot of work has been done to increase the number of women participating in sports, there’s still more to be done. According to the event’s website, high school girls have “1.3 million fewer participation opportunities than do boys.” They also argue that these programs are given significantly lower funds than their male counterparts.

Leaney is not the only Macalester faculty member to be honored with an award. Last year the Women’s Sports Foundation recognized Associate Athletic Director and former cross country/track coach, Vanessa Seljeskog, for her efforts. Former volleyball head coach Stephanie Schleuder also sits on the National Women and Girls in Sports Day committee.

“It was really a neat experience to listen to women in their fifties and sixties who were some of the ground breakers of Title IX,” said Leaney. “You feel kind of privileged [to be part of it].