The U.S. Women’s National Team is making a high-profile run through the World Cup, but overall girls aren’t getting the same chances on the field as their male classmates.
At high schools across the country, sports are a big part of many students’ experiences. According to a study conducted by the National Women’s Law Center and Poverty and Race Research Action Council, “at the typical heavily minority high school girls have only 67% of the opportunities to play sports that boys have.”
We need to start empowering girls through sports. But how?
First, we need to start by providing girls the opportunity to be challenged both mentally and physically. This means giving girls the same opportunity that their male peers are provided. They need the opportunity to play competitively, practice regularly, wear “real” uniforms, and have a coach who is committed to developing their skills and overall being as an athlete.
Second, we need to provide more female role models for our girls. We need role models that embody what it means to be an athlete and that it is OK to be competitive, aggressive and strong. Girls need role models that embody healthy eating and active lifestyles.
By empowering girls to participate in sports, we are providing them with additional skills to be successful in life.
Sports teach girls about hard work and teamwork. Muscle fatigue and exhaustion from trainings and competitions are real experiences and ones that are uncomfortable and unfamiliar to new athletes. But the hard work and determination to push through these feelings are transferable life skills. Sports empowers girls to be leaders, teaches them what it takes to work together as a team and builds a community.
Sports instill the idea that it is OK to make mistakes. In sports, just like in life, mistakes happen all of the time. Sometimes these mistakes result in missing a pass or goal and losing the game. But in sports, if you miss a pass, you can’t just give up on the game. Just like in life, one mistake should not define you. The mistake that you make isn’t as important as what you do after. Sports teach resilience and to never give up on the game or your team.
Sports empowers girls to take ownership of their bodies and health. It teaches them to think like an athlete, train like an athlete and fuel their bodies like an athlete. This means educating them about nutrition and what foods they should be fueling their bodies with rather than Cup of Noodles and Hot Cheetos. It also means teaching them the importance of getting enough sleep and making smart choices about not doing drugs or drinking alcohol to allow their bodies to perform at the optimal level.
At the end of the day, the result of the game isn’t the only thing that matters. It’s the opportunity that now opens many doors for our girls. Sports empowers girls to be responsible, good teammates, hard working, accountable and healthy.