The hate is strong with some guys when it comes to accepting women and girls can learn stats, share sound opinions about plays and players, or even play like the best of them. In my middle school years, I was captain and/or all star of many sports teams which led me to encounter many situations where guys didn’t think my sports acumen and talent was genuine. Surely someone out there had programmed me to behave, talk shop and perform as a top athlete. Maybe, they thought, I had gotten into sports because I was trying to impress my dad or some crush. After I got married they assumed I had learned everything I knew from my husband. The misconceptions are unfounded and only valid in social gender role context. Why would any female want to sport?
In the 1980s, President Reagan started a fitness initiative for kids to stay active in school and enjoy physical education. Arnold Schwarzenegger was the face of the effort and soon many posters and cut outs if the Terminator appeared throughout my school. I was already fascinated by the discipline and team work good sportsmanship promoted and it didn’t take me long to qualify and win one of those coveted Presidential Fitness Awards. (I got the red patch because I couldn’t do one pull up. I was 8 at the time and super skinny and weak. Lol) My patch is sown to one of my volleyball shorts from 4th grade team practices. It is one of my most prized possessions.
From then on my love of sports grew as I added basketball (the Jordan years and centennial), bowling, archery, ping pong, karate, baseball and track and field to my Letterman jacket. Okay so we got the letters and not the jacket because of budget cuts but you get the picture. My dad followed NASCAR and as a prospective engineer at 12 years old, I added Jeff Gordon, Dale Earnhardt and the greats in racing and F1 to my trivia stash, and soon the NFL NFC teams followed. I watched every Olympics from 1988 and on, falling in love with figure skating and gymnastics. Eventually, I added soccer and the World Cup to my list of interests. To this day, I know more about sports than most of my male friends. Who knew?
Rumor has it the MLB may introduce more female players to their amateur and professional leagues to encourage a co-ed environment. Last year, Melissa Mayeux from France was added to their rosters as an attempt to start the process. My thought is that if a 5 ft 3 inch shortstop can be effective so could a 16 year old female version. Imagine the possibilities! I used to play this position and second base a lot with lots of compliments to my throw and reflexes. I never thought men would oppose so much the idea of women being able to compete at their level. Our bodies are machines and share the same mechanisms and capabilities for strength and endurance. Women can tolerate pain a bit more so they can also train harder. Looking muscular and lean is sexy, regardless of the “she must look like Barbie” social norm. I can hit like a girl, hard and with effect, and some men envy that because I can kick their butts easily.
When you meet a girl that can sport please please please do not even assume she is who she is because she was trying to please a man. No. Don’t. Rather ask her what got her interested in the game, in the challenge and in the experience of playing for a sports team. You will be surprised at the amount of women who naturally migrated to sports because they had talent, grace and a penchant for competition. Many have benefited from scholarships to play for NCAA teams that resulted in both a degree and maybe a dab into the professional circles. Sadly, there are not a lot of leagues for women that are taken seriously but we should. The next Lisa Leslie of the WNBA could be your daughter! Heck, even Reggie Miller claims his sister Cheryl can defeat him one on one. That’s not only impressive but worth celebrating and acknowledging.
Help women Lean In and enjoy their participation in sports as coaches, players and contributors. Get educated on the who is who of women in sports and open your mind to accept the next generation of head and assistant coaches coming up through the ranks. The Spurs nation did and assistant coach Becky Hammon has become an integral part of their winning culture and strategy, impressing coach Popovich so much he makes sure she feels like the value added staff member she is. We can’t break through the sports glass ceiling without the support of men and women alike. It is our time to rise and prove we deserve a spot at the opinion and legends table. If not for us for our sons and daughters, nephews and nieces. It’s about time!