Did you know that the nation celebrated Girls & Women in Sports Day at the beginning of February? This day honoring female athletes epitomizes what Title IX gave us in 1972 when it made it illegal to exclude anyone from any educational program on the basis of gender. While I don’t think this holiday is celebrated enough, it doesn’t mean that its value can’t be recognized during the other 364 days in the year. As a college cheerleading coach and former athlete, I see the value of sports for women every day.
The problem is that young athletes don’t necessarily see the value of sports until they go from “athlete” to “former athlete.” Think about it. Did you play basketball growing up? Maybe you ran track. How about soccer or field hockey? Or maybe you danced or did gymnastics. Regardless of the sport, the themes are still the same, and I’d go so far as to say that the values and lessons you learn on a sports team will continue to follow you professionally and personally for the rest of your days.
One of the most valuable parts of my coaching life has been watching and helping cultivate confidence in young women. Confidence can grow from the smallest seeds: from feeling more comfortable in the weight room with the male “jocks” to making the winning shot at a lacrosse game.
As women, we don’t always get along with one another. But that all changes when you have to get out on the field or the floor with your teammates. Any preconceived notions or misunderstandings go out of the window, because you’re there for one common goal: to work as a team and be successful. Think that frame of mind could work its way into a career? I think so.
Sure…getting fit, working together, and making new friends is great…but winning is pretty fantastic, too. Coming together for a common purpose like winning the game or competition is one great way to set everyone’s sights in a single direction.
You don’t have to be the captain or coach of a team to be a leader; leadership can come in many forms on a sports team. As women, we’re born nurturers. Whether it’s the subtle leading of a team by being a great role model or helping a teammate with a skill they’re struggling with, leadership is by far one of the most valuable lessons a young lady can learn from athletics.
No one can question the value of sports when it comes to leading a healthier lifestyle. It’s a given that the training and exercise involved in preparing your body to excel athletically will make a young woman stronger and less likely to struggle with many of the health problems that accompany inactivity. These great health benefits, however, aren’t always enough to convince the girls in our lives to get involved with a sport, so it’s valuable to know and reflect on the myriad benefits that involvement with sports can have for girls through the course of their lives.
If you played sports as a young girl, in high school, college or beyond, remember to never take the skills that team taught you for granted. Happy Belated Girls & Women in Sports Day!