As a former high school athlete I was thrilled to attend the 30th Annual National Girls and Women in Sports Day Briefing. Throughout high school being a member of the basketball, soccer, and track team gave me a sense of focus and determination that has helped me throughout my entire life. During my sophomore year of high school several budget cuts almost eliminated every athletic program in my high school. Luckily my school was able to find funding elsewhere and I was able to continue to play sports throughout the rest of my high school career. Neena Chaudry, Senior Counsel at the National Women’s Law Center, opened the briefing by addressing the importance of sports in women’s lives. She highlighted how embracing physical activity often helps women to learn leadership and teamwork, which facilitates a path to success later in life. But she also mentioned many schools, similar to the one I attended, lack resources to fund athletic programs. I was lucky to attend a school that was able to find funding elsewhere, but many students nationwide are not as fortunate. When women don’t have the opportunity to play sports they also miss out on the many benefits that come with being on a sport’s team.
I was very intrigued by the first speaker Angela Hucles who was a former member of the U.S. National Women’s Soccer Team and an Olympic gold medalist. She discussed how sports taught her how to win and lose gracefully, how to feel strong, how to push through adversity, and how to be a leader. But she reminded the audience that not all women had the support and encouragement to pursue an athletic career like she did. She addressed that three in five girls do not get the opportunity to play sports, and those three girls should be the focus. She stated that every girl deserves the opportunity to participate in sports in order to better their physical and mental health. She also reflected that the amount of women who are in sports has come a long way, but work is not finished. I agreed with her sentiments since sports played such an integral role in my life at such an early age. I reflected on stories that my mother told me about cheerleading being the only sport available for women to participate in “back in her day.” I knew that the effects of those limitations probably had lasting affects that still persist today. But after hearing Ms. Hucles speak I was inspired to convince more women to participate in sports if they get the opportunity.
Mike Thibault, the Head Coach for the Washington Mystics, noted the revolutionary progress women have made in sports since the 1970’s. As a former coach of both male and females athletes he also addressed how he never coached men and women differently. My basketball coach in high school, Mr. Nickerson, had similar views and even noted that women were actually easier to coach since they were more inclined to listen and grow from their coach’s instructions. Mr. Nickerson always challenged me to perform my best, and he was the reason I spent so much time after practice perfecting my three-point shot. Natasha Cloud, a point guard for the Washington Mystics, also discussed how she appreciated that Coach Mike Thibault challenged her and believed in her potential. She noted that more people should encourage the talent of female athletes in order for women to become a more integral part of sport’s history. Today was an inspiring day and it encouraged me to continue to support my fellow female athletes, and to possibly be part of the process that encourages Congress to pass bills that help maintain funding for female sports programs. Side note—I got to meet Lori Lindsey and she’s like, my favorite soccer player of all time. *happy dance*