My husband and I hope to have a pair of kids down the road. If one or more turns out to be a girl, you can bet I’ll be looking to put them in soccer as soon as they turn four. I started playing soccer when I was four, shortly after my dance instructors told my parents I was better suited for something that allowed me to run wild. While I don’t really remember the few dance lessons I took, I do remember my first day of soccer, asking for the number one for my jersey and when that was taken, asking for four, since I was four years old.
My next soccer memory was talking trash in kindergarten to a kid on the playground who was on another team. He said something about how his team was going to beat my team and I said something along the lines of, “Well, we have boys AND girls on our team so we’re better!” I may have kicked him in the shins and run off afterward. But we didn’t beat his team the next weekend. We demoralized them. It was amazing. And the beginning of my love affair with competition and sports.
Obviously, the fact that I had such an excellent experience growing up playing sports is my main motivation for getting any of my kids involved when they’re young. If they play for a little while and don’t show much interest, I won’t want to force it on them. My hope for my future children is they will find something that gives them the satisfaction sports gave me. If it’s drama, painting, or plant biology, I will be supportive.
But if they’re girls, here’s why I hope they love sports:
I was so driven to do well in sports, that it kept me in line. I had little distraction because I had a goal: To play softball in college. Why would I want to potentially hurt my chances of achieving my goal by drinking, smoking, or getting pregnant? Sports provided me with structure in the hectic adolescent world and since it was fun, I wanted to keep playing.
I didn’t grow up looking for self-assurance by getting compliments on my looks. My self-worth had nothing to do with how I looked. I wore mascara to prom on a dare, people. My boyfriend showed me he loved me by coming to my games and then bragging to his friends about my jump shot. I spent more time in baggy warm-ups doing agility drills than picking out an outfit for a weekend party. The only body flaw I was aware of was that I wasn’t six feet tall. I certainly didn’t care that I was a size 10 when I could average hitting .380 a season and ran the bases like I stole something.
Finally, sports helped me realize that life wasn’t the Annie Show. I was a loud, active, over the top kid, to put it nicely. I won’t lie -- as a kid, I liked attention. I was not shy. But through sports I learned the importance of being a part of a team and team building, and to be completely honest, I’m not sure I would have learned it any other way. I learned my team could accomplish more with everyone rather than with just me. And that’s a lesson I think some adults have still not learned.
When we do have children, and if we end up with girls, I hope they will enjoy sports and will learn some of the same important life lessons I learned by being involved.
For more benefits of girls playing sports, see this list by the Women’s Sports Foundation And, hey. Depending on the sport, you can even wear a skirt!
Photo Credit: keithminer
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