I remember the taunt “you run like a girl” from catholic school. My school was many things, but sensitive to self-esteem? Not so much. Despite the trend to keep girls in plaid skirts cheering on the sidelines, I grew up playing sports in the 1970s. I played soccer and swam and then took an interest in lacrosse. At that time in Maryland, there weren’t any little league girls’ teams so I played on the boys’ team. I got plenty of flack, but it helped me grow a thick skin and learn to play with passion and toughness. I’m lucky that I had a mom who encouraged me and saw beyond the obstacles in my way.
Fast forward a few decades and playing like a girl has a new meaning. Nowadays, girls can and do compete in all types of sports – from hockey to cross-country track. That is, they do until puberty kicks in.
Ah, puberty, as Shakespeare would say, “there’s the rub” (it’s from Hamlet if you were wondering). A recent Always’ global confidence survey showed some interesting and disturbing trends regarding girls and sports. 7 out of 10 girls ages 16-24 felt they did not belong in sports, especially during puberty.
Research from the Women’s Sports Foundation shows that girls who play sports have higher levels of confidence and self-esteem and lower levels of depression. They also have a more positive body image and experience higher states of psychological well-being than girls and women who do not play sports. It’s disheartening knowing all the GOOD that sports can do and then finding out that half of our girls quit playing by age 17, at the end of puberty.
What does this mean to me? I've got to do everything I can to keep my two girls involved and connected to sports. For my tween, this is especially important. She's almost 12 and I am already seeing significant drop-out rates from her teams. While she hasn't yet thought about quitting, some days are really hard. Like the days she falls. Or the race days that don't go well. Or when the alarm goes off at 5;15 on a Saturday morning. When the early practices get her groaning, we talk about how long-term efforts get rewarded.
I also get her little treats to keep her motivated. Like that time I met one of her heroes, Ted Ligety and got a signed ski poster for her (photo proof here)
She’s especially passionate about skiing. When she was 18 months we started her off on skis. She fell in love with the sport when she was 5 and started racing at age 7. Now she is working on getting faster and improving her technique. On many race days she finishes ahead of most of the other kids her age!
Her idol is Mikaela Shiffrin. Mikaela made the acronym ABFTTB famous (always be faster than the boys). To my daughter, it means skiing without limits and I love that. I want to bottle up all this 11-year-old confidence and store it up for any tough days that lie ahead.
This is where I am. I am a force for girl power. I am the confidence engine encouraging her to take her skiing as far as she can go. I drive crazy distances, invest in expensive gear and make lots and lots of homemade soup to warm her up. When practice gets hard and cold, I’m there with a warm cocoa and a quote (boy does she find those slightly annoying). I feel like her dad and I have to be her champions because the world just doesn’t look out for girls, particularly in sports.
Thankfully, I’ve got an ally. For over 30 years, Always has been a champion of the girls’ confidence movement. They want to stop the drop in confidence girls experience at puberty and empower girls to feel that they can do anything and everything #LikeAGirl.
Always is committed to getting more girls, and keeping more girls, in sports. I am so impressed by the completion of their “50 Teams, 50 States” program with Walmart, which has provided sports equipment, funding, and more to one girls sports team in each of the 50 states. Check out this “50 Teams, 50 States” video recap from Always #LikeAGirl & Wal-Mart. I think you’ll love it as much as I do. It makes me want to cry and cheer (hey, I’m a mom, I’m always on that spectrum).
How Do We Help Our Daughters Keep Playing #LikeaGirl
- Find them role models (hello Mikaela Shiffrin) and help them connect with these role models. Facebook fan pages and Instagram are great places to start.
- If you can’t find a role model, set an example. Play sports as a grown up to show them sports are for women, not just girls. I play squash and run to show my girls being strong is important.
- Volunteer for your children’s teams and support girls’ sports.
- Talk to your girls. Let them know anything is possible with hard work and the right mindset.
GIVEAWAY Empowering YOU:
At Momtrends, you know we love involving the community. I really want you to tell me how you are being the change that needs to happen and supporting girls. I’ve got a $500 Walmart gift card to give away so you can give back to your community in the same way that Always and Wal-Mart have done in the “50 Teams, 50 States” program. To enter, leave a comment on your inspiring plan to use the $500 in your community. Details in the rafflecopter giveaway. NOTE: YOU MUST ENTER THE GIVEAWAY THROUGH THE RAFFLECOPTER WIDGET.
This is a sponsored post. I'm proud to team up with Always to spread the word about girls' sports participation levels and self esteem.