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UCSB women's softball team celebrating a win.

Celebrating 50 Years of UCSB Women’s Sports

Donors support excellence in women’s athletics

National champions and titans of the Big West, UC Santa Barbara boasts stellar sports programs. When Title IX turned 50 on June 23, 2022, the university celebrated the past five decades of women’s athletics at UC Santa Barbara while reimagining its future. When hardworking student-athletes come together with strong leadership and the collective support of the Gaucho community, it’s a home run for UC Santa Barbara.

In 2021, UC Santa Barbara Foundation Chair John Arnhold ’75 stepped up to offer a matching gift for the UCSB Women’s Athletics Excellence Fund. John and his wife, Jody, hope this gift will inspire others to support the athletic and educational opportunities that UC Santa Barbara provides for female student-athletes. Longtime supporters of Intercollegiate Athletics, the Gretler Foundation rose to the challenge.

“Empowerment knows no bounds when women come together, championing the strength and resilience found in the world of athletics. As a proud board member of the Gretler Foundation, it’s an honor to join forces to elevate and celebrate the incredible achievements of female student-athletes at UC Santa Barbara,” said Lindsay Leonard ’05.

“The UCSB Women’s Athletics Excellence Fund is special, and I’m so thankful for the Arnholds’ matching gift and to the Gretler Foundation for kicking off this effort. The philanthropic giving for some of our women’s programs is lower than some of our men’s programs. This initiative makes a difference and levels the playing field. We are all focused on helping our student-athletes train and compete at a high level while enjoying a great college experience. We can now better serve our female student athletes,” said Director Kelly Barsky.

Barsky was formally appointed to the role of director of Intercollegiate Athletics in January 2023 after one year of interim service and is the first female athletics director in campus history. She oversees all facets of Intercollegiate Athletics, including the direction of the UCSB Women’s Athletic Excellence Fund. To understand where philanthropy would make the biggest impact, Barsky quickly embarked on a strategic planning process in collaboration with student-athletes, coaches, staff and the campus community. The resulting assessment will help set priorities for all teams.

The softball team is one example of how community investment can elevate a sport. In addition to support through the Women’s Athletics Excellence Fund, UCSB Women’s Softball received an anonymous donation that has helped student-athletes train at a high level. Players benefit from new equipment like pitching machines plus post-workout meals and protein shakes to keep them strong and healthy. They compete in a stadium with an improved press box, upgraded dugouts, padded outfield wall, and at-home streaming capabilities — updates that provide a professional and welcoming atmosphere for fans.

At the same time, the university invested in the team by hiring Hall of Fame Coach Jo Evans. The season ahead is promising.

“The advancements our program has made and is continuing to make are so inspiring to me because I feel as though the team has the support beneath us to take charge of our team and our culture. I am grateful to compete with such a special group of players. Even more so, I am excited to see the program develop in the years to come, as I can already see visible changes in the confidence of our team and the way we conduct ourselves as student-athletes,” said senior pitcher Camryn Snyder ’24.

“We want our programs to be nationally competitive and recognized as high-performance programs that provide equitable, holistic support,” said Barsky. “Philanthropy helps us achieve that.”