Three very important factors to making a Division III Athletics program successful are the players, coaches, and administrators. Without these pillars, the University of Southern Maine wouldn’t have the successful program it does.
In honor of Women’s History Month, The Free Press wanted to highlight and honor three individuals who work, coach, and play in each of these important areas. This week The Free Press sat down for a Q&A with Women’s Lacrosse Player Hannah Gorham, Women’s Basketball Coach Samantha Norris, and Associate Director of Athletics Kim Turner.
Hannah Gorham: Senior majoring in Sociology plays for the Huskies’ Women’s Lacrosse team as a defenseman. Since being at USM, Gorham can be seen all over campus working for the Office of Admissions as an Ambassador giving tours to future students. Gorham also participates as an Orientation Leader for orientation weekend each fall semester.
Gorham is a huge advocate for others at USM, playing an integral role in both the Students Athlete Advisory Committee (SAAC) and the Student-Athlete Diversity Equity and Inclusion (SADIE). “I’m really passionate about who we’re representing and who we’re not… One thing SADIE and SAAC accomplished was getting the university to buy 27 new flags to represent people here at USM and within athletics,” said Gorham.
When asked what it meant to be a woman in sports, Gorham responded with the following: “First I think it is super important to single out the Division three part of it. Division three athletes are so dedicated to their sport because we don’t get money or scholarships to do it. We do it because we love to do it.”
Gorham went on to say, “being a female in athletics can sometimes be really challenging. I think there have been times where we could’ve done better to show women that they’re just as prioritized as male sports… However, we have a lot of female coaches who are constantly pushing administrators to recognize where they might be falling short.”
Samantha Norris: Norris entered her sixth season as head coach of the Huskies Women’s Basketball program. Norris has several awards and honors, being named to the Women’s Basketball Coaches Association (WBCA) 30 under 30 in 2018 and was also awarded the USM Outstanding Student Organization Advisor honor in 2019 and 2020. Norris was also recognized for her commitment to community engagement and service-learning, receiving the Donald Harward Award for Faculty Service-Learning Excellence in 2018.
Norris decided to get involved in coaching during her senior year at Colby College. “I started to think more seriously about what my next steps in my professional career would be and I reflected on where I spent most of my time outside of classes: playing basketball, lifting, working basketball camps, volunteering in a mentor program, and substitute teaching. It became clear that doing something where I could be active, work with younger people, and stay around basketball was really important to me,” said Norris.
Norris, growing up in the Lake Region of Maine, was inspired by Katie Simpson on the girl’s varsity basketball team of Lake Region High School. “I wanted to be like her… Simpson would volunteer at my elementary school and this is where I saw her as a role model student, athlete, and person,” said Norris.
Before Simpson finished high school she tragically took her own life. “The community was devastated and I don’t think I truly understood the depths of sorrow at that moment… I have been inspired by her for a long time for her drive to excel in as many areas as possible and to be a positive role model for everyone she knew or didn’t know,” said Norris.
For Norris being a woman in sports, “means progress in how we view ourselves and how we are perceived. As boys grow up, they are encouraged to win and they see males in leadership roles in every industry across the globe; it takes girls much longer to grow into confident and competitive leaders and we do not see the same percentage of females in positions of power.”
Norris went on to say “although there have been many firsts within the last couple of years for women in sport and leadership roles, there are still severe equality issues. It is important for us to continue to question the status quo and have awareness of our own strengths and weaknesses.”
Kim Turner: Turner is the Associate Director of Athletics at USM and plays a major role in the inner workings of athletics. Turner played sports her whole life and during her senior year at the University of Maine, she met her mentor Walter Abbott. “I was an accounting major but had finished my coursework early, so I decided to take some physical education electives and I loved them,” said Turner.
After graduating from UMaine Turner decided to apply to the University of Massachusetts at Amherst for Sports Studies. “This one-year program truly was a repeat of my undergraduate business program; however, it all focused on sports. As part of the program, I was required to obtain an internship and I was lucky enough to land a position at Syracuse University…I had a blast and it was the best entry-level job I could have asked for,” said Turner.
For Turner, there are many other women in her life that have inspired her. “To begin I think of my mom, she always encouraged me. Barb Adams and Doris Soladay from SU taught me how to do things the right way in the field and to always maintain professionalism; Paula Hodgdon, another mentor from USM, my well-respected colleague Janet Judge. My daughter Kiersten and all the women I have the privilege to work with on a daily basis inspire me to be at my very best.” said Turner.
Turner thrives on the idea of being a strong role model for others. “I have the privilege of using my voice to create a positive change and to support our student-athlete population as best as possible. Serving in a student-focused capacity is what I truly love about my job,” said Turner.
In a year so difficult these Huskies still find a way to impact their community in a positive way.