I recently saw a commercial (link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=URVYgTbbryE) for Keep her in the Game a site dedicated to Title IX and issues in women’s sports. The commercial highlights the fact from ages 6-9, girls and boys demonstrate an equal level of interest in sports. But by age 14, girls drop out of sports at twice the rate of boys. This statistic exists despite knowing that girls who stay in sports are proven to have higher self-esteem, better body image, better grades and better health practices than girls who do not. There are a number of reasons for these statistics like social stigma, access, safety, poor role models and costs of participation. For me, they’re all reasons that can be fixed, and I love Keep her in the Game and the Women’s Sports Foundation for being dedicated to fixing the disparities in girls and women’s sports.
As a woman who played sports for almost her entire life, I can truly attest to the importance of sports in a child’s development and maturation. And since I have this blog here, I thought it’d be nice to share with readers the impact sports has had on my life. Aside from giving me a set of rock-hard abs by the age of twelve, my participation in tennis, soccer and track and field helped make me into a well-rounded, strong woman. Sports taught me what it means to be dedicated and accountable to a purpose, a team, a coach, and myself. Sports enabled me to deal with adversity and developed a tenacious spirit.
If I had to name one of the most significant things that I learned from participating in sports, it would have to be the ability to work with and accept people. You know—teamwork, tolerance. I was blessed to participate in the so-called individual sports and team sports. And both taught me that no woman is an island. Of course the necessity of teamwork is apparent in team sports; however, my participation in individual sports taught me the importance of teamwork even for personal glory. Sure I competed alone, but the preparation was all about teamwork. I worked with coaches, parents, and other members of the team in order to be successful. Had it not been for my ability to work well with a support system, my successes would have never existed. This ability to work with others translated into success in my professional life which constantly requires me to work with others for the good of our clients.
Beyond the general practice of teamwork, sports developed a sense of tolerance. I proudly say that I grew up in a Southern racially conscience Black Power family where I was taught about my history and the beauty of African people. But my, interactions through sports, with girls of different races, socioeconomic standings, and religious backgrounds taught me to appreciate the beauty in people of all walks of life. I developed lasting friendships with girls and women based on our love for competition and for our sport. We learned that we had many similarities beyond sports; but I know that had it not been for sports, I would not have made as many lasting, meaningful relationships with girls that outwardly appeared to be so different than I.
I can honestly say that sports opened doors in my academic and professional life that would not have been opened had I been a “Stray Bird.”* Sports made me a better girl. A better woman. Moral of the story, if your girls aren’t involved in sports, get them involved and make sure they stay involved.
* Stray Bird. Origin, Howard University. Meaning, one who is a non-athlete, a sideliner, a spectator. Synonym, Couch potato. Antonym, Athlete.