Rally for Girls Sports Day was yesterday. So to begin – I clearly should have done this yesterday. I’m sorry. As an athlete for much of my young life, I know the benefits of playing team sports. I never occurred to me while playing soccer, basketball, softball and volleyball that I was lucky to be able to participate in all of those sports, or any of them.
I was always quiet in class growing up — chatty with my friends, but still one of the quiet ones. But when I was on the volleyball court I was yelling and cheering and making noise. It was one of the few places I was expected to be that loud! Playing team sports obviously teaches girls about sportsmanship and teamwork. But its also teaches girls about communication, gives them a work ethic, importance of setting goals and rewards for reaching those goals.
I made friends I would never have known if I hadn’t played sports. I played on a soccer team that lost every game. I’m not even sure we ever scored a goal. But we had fun playing, and we tried hard. I played on undefeated volleyball teams, and we struggled to keep momentum and make plays happen. Each match we came out on top was like winning a battle. It brought us closer together and made us practice harder the next day.
I know today that, when my stress level is at its max, if I go home and get on a treadmill or run around my neighborhood I will finish with a new perspective, and a lower blood pressure. I am confident the work ethic and need for physical exercise will stay with me forever.
AAUW’s blog post yesterday details the lack of opportunities available for girls today, and the benefits athletes wouldn’t even think of. It goes beyond physical activity being helpful to achieving mental fitness and well being as well.
I know there will always be girls who don’t want to play sports, or just are not athletic. That’s fine. But so few girls are participating in sports now, almost 40 years after Title IX. I’m sure the benefits of team sports is not limited to girls, but girls are the ones who need encouraging. So next time you see a girl on the fence about trying out for a team, give her some encouragement!