How Sports Empower Women and Girls for Life
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February 3, 2021, is the 35th annual National Girls & Women in Sports Day. This day calls on girls and women to own their inner and outer strength while recognizing the importance of play, activity and equal opportunities in sports for girls and women.
At TeamSnap, we love celebrating all wins, no matter how big or small, and National Girls & Women in Sports Day feels like a big reason to celebrate all the great things sports has brought us. Sports play such a large role in our lives, so we asked our fellow TeamSnappers and TeamSnap customers, “What role do sports play in empowering women?” We received such an overwhelming response of heart-warming, funny, and most of all inspiring stories, we can’t help but share them with you. Here are the responses we received for the role sports play in empowering women:
Growing up, I was a two-sport athlete and had a special love for softball. I was a pitcher playing from 6th grade through college. I trained daily for hours on end, on my own and on the field with my team. Playing softball helped lay the foundation for living an active and healthy lifestyle, while also providing me with the opportunity to be a leader. As a captain on my team, I took the leadership position very seriously and saw myself as a role model to the girls on the JV team and among the community leagues. It also helped me be more confident, especially in my decision-making process because you need to be able to act on a play within seconds. I don’t think I would be where I am today without having sports in my life, and I’m so excited to pass this on to my daughter in the years to come.
Empowering themselves as leaders
Sports empower women to see themselves as leaders. Young girls are often told to stay quiet and polite. Don’t be bossy. Try not to be “too much”. This teaches girls that others are leaders, not them. Sports offers an outlet for girls to be strong, competitive and compassionate with their teammates. These are the skills young women need to be successful in their careers, relationships and lives.
Strength, determination poise and tenacity
Every day…EVERY SINGLE DAY my daughter inspires me. She is a 12-year-old honors student and three-sport athlete: basketball, softball, soccer. She is a little self-conscious because many of her teammates have the typical 12-year-old stick figure body, and that’s not her. But I remind her always that her body is what makes her able to hit the ball the hardest, defend against girls 5 inches taller than her on the court, and stop any shot on goal. She is a force to be reckoned with and I am in awe of her strength, her poise, her determination, and her ferocity. It is on the field or the court that she feels the most empowered. #playlikeagirl
Learning ownership and accountability, finding your passion and courage when faced with challenges, strength and stamina
Sports gave me the ability to understand that I was the one who was responsible for pushing myself to do better. At first, we believe that a parent or a coach will ultimately help you achieve your goals. Through sports, we learn that while coaches may guide you and mentor you and teach you and yes, push you – only you can be the one to push yourself as hard as you can to improve. Beating your previous year’s timed mile, earning a starting position on the varsity team as a freshman, becoming team captain are all goals you set for yourself and then push and strive to achieve. Your coach isn’t with you when it’s 95 degrees on a Saturday morning in August, and you leave your house to run five miles. You did that. Your coach isn’t going to give you the courage to try out for the ODP state team where you might not be the best out there or you may fail and not make the team. You did that.
There are so many lessons I learned about myself through sports, and my ability to rise up and try again or dig deep and believe in myself that yes, I can. I learned through sports and competition that when there is adversity or things get hard or seem impossible, that I know I can push myself to dig a little deeper and pick myself up and ultimately just keep going. Giving birth and being in labor was one of those times. I called on those moments spent training for timed miles in sweltering heat and humidity. I called on that exact moment of crossing the finish line on the day I beat that six-minute mile twenty years ago. Knowing I could achieve that goal, I was able to get through labor and bring my daughter into the world. I felt victorious and happy and so proud that I was able to keep pushing when it all seemed too hard, too impossible. All with the help of just visualizing what I knew I was able to do through sports. I carry those thoughts and that understanding of how strong I am because of what sports have taught me on a daily basis. I am who I am because I played and trained with a passion for the love of the game.
Finding self-efficacy and strength, empowerment through choices and confidence in decision-making
I believe that sports help to build self-efficacy. It also teaches us what we do and don’t enjoy. I still remember being so afraid of striking out that I didn’t enjoy the game of softball. But, I felt strong when I was skating on the ice so I continued to figure skate for many years. At the end of the day, we all have different strengths and it is important to explore and tap into those strengths to build a sense of empowerment and self-confidence. I will empower my children to push through the doubt, seek out what they enjoy, encourage others, and surround yourself with those who elevate you in positive ways.
Inspiring teamwork, perseverance, determination and connection
I briefly played tennis in middle school, but my true calling to sports came later in life. It started as I went to college at the University of Florida and drank the Gator fandom kool-aid. It led me to start watching sports with my friends on the weekends and my passion for sports would grow as I saw the discipline, teamwork, and perseverance displayed in every game.
I started playing fantasy football and talking about college and pro sports to my guy friends, who were surprised that a girl would take as much interest as I did. My colleagues at Under Armour encouraged me to run a half marathon, which eventually led to running a full marathon outside Seattle. I would think about the focus and discipline the athletes I admired had, and it would help me with any grueling long runs. I watched the Boston Marathon and NYC Marathon for inspiration whenever I could.
Lastly, sports gave me lifelong friends, from watching games together! I truly learned about passion, determination, putting one foot in front of another through running and watching some of my most favorite athletes play their hearts out.
Accountability, dedication, teamwork, caregiving, commitment
Our girls started out with rodeo as their first sport. They learned a lot of life lessons with the animals they competed on. Teamwork takes on a whole new meaning when your teammate outweighs you by 1,000 lbs. and depends on you for their care and health. As they got older, they moved on to cross country and track and field. The commitment they showed to their equine partners in their early rodeo years, was brought to these new events while the dedication and perseverance they learned as athletes has helped them develop into top students in their school. To me “academic all-state athlete” and “deans list” have a nice ring to them!
Life isn’t easy when you clock in as a 4’10” and 63-lb, knobby-kneed, gangly 7th-grade girl. I’m not sure whether I asked or my parents suggested it, but somehow I landed at track practice. Coach said run. I did. I was the first one done with the workout.
“She beat Cindy!” the other girls whispered. Little did I know I had easily beat the fastest girl in school. Thus began the on again off again relationship I had with running in my adolescence. Sometimes I competed, sometimes I didn’t, but I always liked the sound and feel of my feet hitting the pavement. It was the consistency I needed as I grew into my body and sense of self.
Running became a priority as I realized I do my best thinking with my feet flying 180 steps per minute below my busy little brain. I love competing with others to stretch and become a slightly better version of myself each time. As I hit my late twenties my relationship with running grew red hot and my family teased me for my craziness while still tolerating all of my early morning miles and races.
When my kids were little, they were my frequent companions riding their bikes while I went on 4 – 10 mile runs. My ever-present bickering entourage rolled along on their bikes and scooters during early morning miles. My kids and family watched me regularly compete – always striving to become a better version of myself each time I tied on those laces. Little did I know those years were slowly changing my family.
It started with my oldest son. At six he asked to run a 5k and then dabbled with the occasional run until he went from once a month runner to an All-American Junior Olympian. At fifteen I still watch my habits live in him with stretching and core work while he watches TV as he’s in his peak training. My mom started running 5ks, then 10ks, and soon we ran a half marathon together and she became a staple in her local running club. Slowly but surely the sport started taking hold of other family members one by one; a niece, my non-athlete sister, another son, and my dad started joining my mom on her runs. Another niece, a nephew, the list of runners in our family continues to grow.
We’re now that family that goes through dozens and dozens of pairs of running shoes a year. We have an abundance of medals, drawers littered with bibs, improved physical fitness, endless stories, and most importantly, confidence and bond that came from my sport.
Building confidence in one’s own abilities
Sports empower women by giving them a tool to show their strength, confidence, and athletic abilities. I have been coaching for five years. I introduce children as young as one-years old to our local recreation youth sports teams. The more I coached the better I became. As I grew as a coach, so did my confidence in myself and my ability to influence and inspire children, even ones as little as one-years old.
- Sonji C.
Trust, the importance of hard work, determination, connection
As a grandparent of a college softball player, the enjoyment of watching these women play can’t be measured. Not only for the love of the game, but for the bonding experiences that these women enjoy! Trust, hard work and determination help mold them into better people and it’s amazing to watch them grow. I think this gives us more, as their biggest fans, than they’ll ever know. What a great ride!
My love for the game of golf started when I was 10 years old. It was a sunny afternoon in San Diego when my dad handed me a golf club in an effort to keep me busy as my older brother took a golf lesson of his own. He put a golf ball on the tee and said, “Try to hit it.” I stepped up, swung the golf club back, and hit the ball in the air. “Wow, Al!” my dad said. I put another golf ball on the tee, stepped up, swung the golf club back, and hit the ball in the air again. From that day on, I was hooked. And what started as a simple act hitting golf balls just to keep me busy, quickly turned into playing in local tournaments, playing in national tournaments, playing in college, and eventually, the professional tour.
Golf has taught me a lot and shaped me into the person I am today. It’s a sport that teaches everyone a lot. Golf taught me about honesty and accountability. In golf, you are often your own scorekeeper, rules official and timekeeper. Cheating in golf is only cheating yourself. Golf taught me that many things in life are uncontrollable. In golf, you get some good breaks but you also get some really bad breaks that are entirely out of your control. Golf taught me to be quiet, patient, and focused. Many times, golf takes 4+ hours to play and demands patience and focus throughout. One mistake can set you back several strokes. Finally, golf taught me how to be a problem solver. When you get a bad break, you have to think ahead by playing every scenario out and deciding on the best approach to get yourself out of trouble. Bobby Jones once said, “Golf is the closest game to the game we call life. You get bad breaks from good shots; you get good breaks from bad shots – but you have to play where it lies.”
Skill development, goal setting, confidence and maintaining friendships
Growing up, soccer gave me an outlet to be strong and fierce. It taught me how to set goals and develop the skills needed to achieve them. It taught me how to lose, and how to do so gracefully and learn from it. It taught me that what I do on the field and the sidelines matter, and to lead by example. As a tomboy growing up with brothers, sports gave me the confidence to connect with other girls and women both on and off the field. I’ve made lifelong friendships through sports. As a fan, sports gives my friends a reason to get together on Sundays to watch football or stay connected across the country competing in a fantasy football league. Sports gives girls and women so much more than just a game to play.
Find common ground in new surroundings, build confidence and create diverse friendships
As a new brown girl in a suburban middle school outside Philadelphia, athletics allowed me to integrate into my new public school with ease. I played field hockey in a small private elementary school. When we moved to the suburbs into a larger middle school, my experience playing field hockey allowed me to meet girls in my grade and create some commonality on the field. Culturally we were worlds apart, as I was a first-generation Indian American and the only person of color in my grade. Athletics through my middle school, high school and college career allowed me the opportunity to share experiences and friendships with girls of all ethnic and religious backgrounds and create a foundation of tolerance and respect for myself and others. Creating common experiences from diverse backgrounds helps to empower women as they face future challenges in life.
As a parent of two daughters Elle (8), and Sloane (4), I can say unequivocally that youth sports have made a huge impact on both of their lives. They both started playing soccer at about age three or four, and like anything new, it took some parenting patience to get them excited about games, the gear, the practices. But once they experienced the joy of being on the field and rooting for each other, it took off! My oldest daughter’s team created custom socks and on-field cheers and they would literally stay glued to the action on game day, cheering each other on by name and going bananas when they would score. Which at times wasn’t always often, but this taught them how to win and lose gracefully which has translated into not only new sports but everything they try. As my oldest daughter became one of the lead goal scorers it warmed my heart but what really brought it home was the confidence it built in her and even better, the lesson that it’s okay to not be great at something out of the gate, no one is. But through a little practice and a focus on fun, you can have the time of your life. In our case, you can also learn how to turn every goal scored into having your dad buy you ice cream. So there’s that life skill too!
Teamwork, equal opportunities and more. A girl I used to coach in soccer kicked for her high school football team this fall. She was the first female to play for the football program, and her soccer background helped this happen! I hope this encourages other girls to play predominantly male sports in the future. Pictured is one of the teams I used to coach, they taught me a lot about myself and gave me insight into female sports that I had not had prior to this.
Developing a strong work ethic, dedication, empowerment, determination, self-assurance, support
Some of my greatest memories are linked to training and competing with my cross-country teams. We worked hard. The skills we were developing on the roads like; endurance, teamwork, steadfastness, all translated into life skills that made us better students, employees, mothers. There is no doubt that running made me a better human. I’m proud of my individual and team accomplishments, the connections I made along the way, and the stories that I can share with my kids.
I won’t go into details about my accolades because of all the medals and awards that were earned as there are none that fill my heart with joy more than watching my kids succeed in sports themselves. Learning the same lessons and building their own dreams, the same way I did. My son is a great example to my daughter and one of her biggest supporters. As a multisport athlete, she’s naturally gifted but still works harder than anyone I know.
When I think of empowerment, I think of my daughter Megan. She has the opportunity, work-ethic and the drive to do whatever she wants. The role sports plays in that empowerment is significant. It teaches her to work toward a goal, to not give up in the face of adversity, and to believe that she has succeeded, win or lose, because she has done her best. State track her freshman year sums this up. She qualified in the 100-meter hurdles and when the race was over, I saw her walk off the track with the most serene smile. She told me she was satisfied with her race but already had a plan to be better next year. That’s empowerment!
Personal development of social interactivity, creativity, and reaching one’s goals are empowered by sports.
Trust, strength, consistency, discipline, joy, teamwork
I played many sports growing up that helped shape the adult I am today. Competitive dance, in particular, helped me get strong, through consistent practice and discipline. Working together in a dance troupe taught me both personal accountability through leadership and how to trust and rely on others. It is through sport, that I learned valuable lessons, including the benefits of hard work, the impact of trusting my teachers, coaches, and teammates, and the joy of competing.
I firmly believe that sports, particularly youth sports, is empowering to young women because it fortifies important life skills including teamwork, leadership, perseverance, dedication and self-confidence. I think youth sports help establish a baseline level of equality as girls and boys typically play together at a point in time. While this circumstance changes as boys and girls get older, the experience of playing with (and beating boys), who may often label as stronger, faster or tougher, empowers girls to grow into confident women who will accept nothing less than equality in all aspects of their lives. As a parent of two boys and one girl, my daughter takes delight in challenging her brothers. Whether it’s on the basketball court, karate or playing soccer, she competes to win and is driven because her brothers feel like not only are they “supposed” to win, but that she shouldn’t be able to compete with them. I’ve seen her passion for sport directly contribute to her drive academically and creatively. She is committed, but also considerate and takes the responsibility of leadership in the classroom and on the playing field seriously. I can honestly say that her confidence can directly be attributed to sports.
Compassion, teamwork, inclusion and most importantly, how to be a good friend
A couple of weeks ago, I ran into one of the girls who played on my daughter’s softball team, which I coached. We spoke for a few minutes, catching up. It stirred up some wonderful memories.
Watching the girls grow emotionally, mentally, and physically over the years helped me grow up myself. The girls didn’t argue over playing time or complain when I took them out to put another girl in the lineup. They helped each other instead of competing over every at-bat and play opportunity. They cheered each other’s successes and consoled each other when they didn’t get a hit or made an error.
We welcomed a new player when the girls were eleven. Katie is differently-abled. Her older brother Tommy—our biggest fan—is also differently-abled from a neurological disorder. He used a wheelchair and spoke very little. Another coach had refused to take Katie on his team though she lived in his district. He said he didn’t want to be responsible for her. He didn’t want to “deal” with her impairment. He thought it would be unfair to the rest of the team to have to play her.
The league commissioner asked if I would take Katie. I decided to let the girls decide. It was their team. And although they were just eleven years old, I trusted their judgment. I told the girls about Katie. I told them that if she joined the team, they would all get less playing time. I also told them that this was Katie’s last chance to join a team. One of the girls knew Katie. She told the others that sometimes Katie got really excited and loud. And that she loved to give hugs. The girls voted to ask Katie to join the team.
When I passed out the team uniforms a few weeks later, Katie asked if Tommy could have one. I thought this was another good decision for the team to make. Another chance for them to show compassion. I told the team of Katie’s request. I explained that if they voted to give Tommy a shirt and hat, he would be an official member of the team. I told them it was up to them. They voted unanimously to give Tommy a uniform. Katie gave him a shirt and put a hat on his head. The other girls rallied around him cheering and patting him on the back. Two of the girls spun him in his wheelchair, which we parked next to the bench during each practice and game.
After the vote, we discussed the team’s decision. I knew the girls would vote to give Tommy the hat and shirt because that was what Katie wanted. Katie came to every practice and game. But try as she might, she didn’t hit more than a bunch of foul balls the whole year. Katie was a big strong girl, so when she made contact the ball traveled! Finally, in the last game, Katie crushed one down the right-field line, about a foot inside the foul line. By the time the outfielder got to the ball, Katie was rounding third. She crossed the plate and kept running. She jumped into my arms, and the rest of the team swarmed us, jumping up and down and yelling. When I turned around, I saw Tommy squirming and shaking so hard that his wheelchair shook.
The team loved Katie—her constant smile, her compassion for others, her hugs, her kindness, the way she treated Tommy, the way she called everyone her friend, the way she cheered for everyone, including the girls on the other teams. I cherished the way she hugged me and told me she loved me after every practice and game. Katie taught each of us so much about how to treat others, how to be a stronger team. About how to be a friend.
Even though many of us may no longer play sports the way we did growing up, the impact sports made on our lives is everlasting, defining some of our most important life lessons and personal values. We hope that these stories inspire you to get out and play, and continue celebrating the positive impact sports have on people’s lives, more than just once a year.