Women athletes, college sports leaders gather at summit

DURHAM, N.C. — Women from around the state gathered in the Durham Convention Center to develop as leaders and make connections in the sports industry Wednesday afternoon.

What You Need To Know

  • According to UNESCO, 40% of all sports participants are women 
  • This is the first Emerging Women in Sports Leadership Summit in Durham 
  • Deputy Director of the Durham Sports Commission Kaila’Shae Menendez helped put this event on 

The goal of the Emerging Women in Sports Leadership Summit is to equip strong women to support each other in an ever-competitive industry. 

“Such a passion for making an impact in the community and to be able to have an opportunity to bring strong women here in a space to do that and utilizing the vessel of sports. We all have a common denominator, and that is sports, and we have a passion for that,” Kaila’Shae Menendez, deputy director of the Durham Sports Commission, said. 

Natasha Ainsley-Thomas graduated from N.C. Central in May 2022 after participating on the women’s golf team’s inaugural season. 

“I feel so proud of what they’ve already done and what they’re trying to do,” Ainsley-Thomas said. 

Ainsley-Thomas grew up playing golf in Northamptonshire, England. Both her parents and grandfather play. 

“It’s a real family thing in my household,” Ainsley-Thomas said. 

This sport has brought her all the way to the United States, where she was able to get an education and build relationships in her sport. 

“Golf has allowed me to come to a whole other country. It’s allowed me to get through school, and with scholarships, I’m leaving debt-free. And it’s just opened a whole world of just traveling, experiencing, meeting new people, networking,” Ainsley-Thomas said. 

Kendra Greene was Ainsley-Thomas’ head coach at NCCU and started the women’s golf team there.

“I had the opportunity and Christmas of 2020, when we were all waking up from COVID, to start recruiting our first inaugural class for the NCC women’s golf program. And I brought in six young ladies, one of which was Natasha Ainsley-Thomas,” Green said. 

Greene is also the deputy athletic director of internal affairs and the senior women administrator. She is a frontrunner for women in sports. She has been in sports for more than 20 years and has seen how the city of Durham has been committed to driving women in the sports industry.

“Able to be in a town that’s so committed with these higher education institutions of women really calling the shots. It’s tremendous,” Greene said. 

She is speaking at the summit to share her experience with others and connect with everyone who has come before her. 

“To be in a room with some trailblazers, I mean, from women athletic directors to male athletic directors that have awesome women staffs, with Boo Carrigan at N.C. State. I’m just super excited to be able to network with that next generation of women that really aspire to not necessarily be an A.D., but they want to make an impact,“ Greene said. 

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