Making an Adventurer: the Value of Girls’ Sports

Someone asked me a couple Friday nights ago, “What made you this way?”

Not sure exactly what this way meant, I assumed he was referring to the adventuring…

There are so many things… some from childhood, some from the last few years… that have made it possible for me to live full out, or whatever you’d call this journey. The question’s coming up in my circle of Superhero girlfriends a lot lately (love Marianne’s related post), and if you’re raising little girls maybe this will be useful…

First I have to thank my parents for the solid foundation they provided. I feel comfortable with a level of risk not everyone can consider; I think a lot of that has to do with them. Plus a good education… then there are the innate traits: boldness, independence, a flair for the dramatic. I hear those have been there all along.

Love my posture in this photo!

Is there a fearless little girl in your midst? A bold little thing with wild curls, perhaps? My new Superhero friends share these traits: we have this intense combination of being extremely driven & results-oriented + intensely nurturing at the same time. Over the next several weeks I’ll share some of the things I see allowed my confidence, passion, and drive to shine brightly even as they faded in adolescence for other girls…

Today’s post is about girls’ sports. Even with great NIKE ads and Title IX, we may still underestimate the role of sports in young girls’ lives.

I started playing competitive sports when I was 9 years old. I was the least athletic kid in my class before that, the one never picked for dodge ball. By the end of middle school I was  a stand-out athlete in the state. It became a part of who I am.

Playing sports introduced me to my own power.

It focused my competitiveness and energy on the playing field vs. having it spill out in inappropriate places. For high-performing girls and women there is almost no place where unleashing that focused, intense part of ourselves is wholly accepted, valued, lauded. I miss that every day now.

Playing sports gave me kinds of confidence that being the smart girl never could.

Playing sports brought me joy, excitement and comraderie with other girls that I still seek in other ways and places today.

Playing sports made my body healthy, strong and beautiful.

These are short sentences for huge points. I am thankful to have had these things in middle school, when so many girls get derailed and distracted by petty differences and much less productive pursuits.


Together this group of girls was determined; we persevered. If I remember correctly, we won the FL state championship in a triple header (3 games in one day in the FL summer heat) moments before this photo was taken.  We were fierce… and played and laughed and joked together, too.

Some of us were closer friends than others, some older, others younger… I don’t remember petty cliques, though, amongst us. In other clubs and circles there were, not so when we focused on playing and working and winning together.

On the playing field I learned things about myself I hadn’t seen anywhere else yet:

– I can focus in a crisis and under tremendous pressure.

– I’d rather be a generalist than a specialist.
I played almost every position, just like today.

– Other people can see things about me that I cannot see.
There were coaches who saw I could command the team and control play from behind home plate at 9 years old. Years later a coach put me at first base when the rest of the team had  lousy throwing accuracy – I loved the challenge and drama of it! I can still recall the physical sensation of jumping as high as I could, arm outstretched over my head, torso fully extended to catch the ball and then landing back on the base before the runner touched. GOTCHA! My face lights up the same way today.  Another coach put me in to pitch in the last inning of an all-star tournament with a close score (in the rain!)… and I was not regularly a pitcher.

So sports taught me to solicit feedback and made me feel valuable in new ways at an age when girls’ self-esteem normally plummets.

Rally for Girls’ Sports DayKudos and Thank You to the coaches among you, and the parents, administrators and team managers who support girls’ sports. You make more difference than you know…

Today is the National Women’s Law Center’s Blog to Rally for Girls’ Sports Day. Blog & play with a girl you know…

{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

  1. Yessiree that posture says it all! You were ready to take it on-sweet pic of you and Carol-your reference to this year being a tough one somehow is put in perspective when you look at little Carol and you, said by side, and think about the hand she got dealt in life. She simply was never equipped to make better choices than the ones she made. The pic makes me smile then makes me so sad that her life was cut so short.

  2. I love this post Rebecca (and the poignant exchange of comments with your Mom as well).

    “For high-performing girls and women there is almost no place where unleashing that focused, intense part of ourselves is wholly accepted, valued, lauded. I miss that every day now.”

    Amen sister. Running was a place where I could let my strong drive to win come out without anyone telling me to tone it back, to be nicer, to let someone else go first.

    These days the focused, intense part of me finds it’s home in my yoga practice and comes with less and less competitiveness and more and more acceptance of exactly who and where I am. I’m grateful for that too.

  3. Thanks, Marianne. Yes, I was thinking about this in the Plank pose with you & Gaby tonight – it’s a way to be strong! Thank you so much for that.

    I am finding especially with work and relationships with men, it’s so tough for other people to be with that “unleashed” self… such a pity, she’s fantastic!

    And editing and holding back is growing tedious…

    Thanks again!

  4. as the dad of a little girl, I read this very carefully… it’s research as to how to do things right!!!

    I do think a lot about what good “foundation sports” for RZ would be. I think Martial arts & Hockey are what I will guide her towards, until that day comes when she can guide herself. Those sports provide a tremendous blend of good things, focus, individual, and team (and ACL-protecting lateral motion-strength, crucial for athletic women as they grow & turn into strong adults..).

    Of course, RZ is her own person, and if she has a strong preference, that is what she will do..

    one quick thought, no mention of your quad speedskating days! (and the crash you had).

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