Thursday, May 9, 2013

Sports Make Girls and Women Winners

Tomorrow my North Shore Racquet Club tennis team will play in the finals of our 4.5 Green league, and the excitement and pressure of the upcoming match has me thinking of how much I love competitive sports, which I only discovered in my forties. This post was originally published on my blog for True/Slant, but it remains as fresh and true for me as it did three years ago. Wish me luck!

Sports benefit girls of all ages

CARSON, CA - AUGUST 09:  Agnieszka Radwanska o...
Image by Getty Images via Daylife
I’d have a lot more time to write if I didn’t play so much tennis. I  play 3 times a week and I’d play more if I could. I love it!  If you think that means I’m some vapid, country club housewife you can kiss my racquet.
Oops, that was kind of aggressive of me.
The reason I have the confidence to state my opinion so definitively is that I’m fresh off the court and my partner and I blew away our opponents, helping our team move into 1st place. Man, am I pumped for the playoffs!
Competitiveness is something I discovered late in life. My high school athletic career consisted of cheerleading and a few step-kicks in the chorus of Mame. I didn’t experience the fun and fulfillment of being on a sports team until I turned 40 and took up tennis.
Now I see how much I missed. As the Women’s Sports Foundation reports, participating in sports delivers lifelong benefits to girls and women. Here are just a few:
  • Girls who play sports get better grades and are less likely to get pregnant than girls that don’t.
  • Girls and women who play sports are more confident, have higher self esteem ,and are less likely to suffer from depression.
  • Females of all ages who play sports have a more positive body image than women who don’t. (They value their bodies for what they can do, not only how they look.)
  • Sports and exercise reduce the risk of breast cancer, osteoporosis and other diseases.
Not only does playing sports keep girls and women healthier and happier, it prepares them to understand the dynamics of the workplace, which are often based on sports team models. Young women need to understand the unwritten rules of how to handle pressure, not take things personally, support the overall goal, and project confidence. They also need to accept that promotions and responsibilities will be awarded based on people’s strengths and competencies; girls often judge one another on who is nicest or most likable.
So you see, my tennis is not just some frivolous pastime – it’s a good career move. Kudos to Vice President Joe Biden and the Obama administration for announcing changes in policies to strengthen Title IX earlier this week. Since the law, which requires gender equity in federally funded educational programs, passed in 1972, the number of women participating in college sports has grown from 32,000 to 150,000.
In just one generation, Title IX’s impact has been huge. Girls today grow up playing all kinds of sports that didn’t exist when I was in school – soccer, hockey, water polo, lacrosse.  Girls expect to be on the playing field, not cheering for the boys from the sidelines. In fact, there isn’t even a cheerleading squad at our local high school, New Trier. There’s just not enough interest.

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