One of my favorite memories is from a soccer game I played when I was 12. I was playing defense that day, trying to take the ball away from a boy who was probably two years older than I was and six inches taller. It was raining so hard that I could barely see, and the rain had turned our field into a slippery mud pit—so it was probably no surprise that I crashed into the other player when I ran up to take the ball from him.
He stayed standing. I fell backwards and ended up rolling through several inches of mud before I got back to my feet, but the ball went where I wanted it to, up the field to one of my teammates. It was a small victory in a game that we eventually lost. I went home wet, muddy, and slightly bruised, but I remember having more fun during that game than in any other game that season.
That may not sound surprising, unless you know what I was like when I was 12. I was not the kind of girl most people thought would enjoy sports: I was shy and uncoordinated, and I didn’t like dirt. I was also a perfectionist who hated losing because I thought it made me look bad.
But I did enjoy sports—and not just soccer. I tried baseball, gymnastics, and tennis, and though soccer was the only one that stuck, I learned something from each of them. Sports gave me the confidence to talk to new people, taught me that losing wasn’t the end of the world, and helped me remember it was ok to get a little messy. Of course, I also learned about teamwork, dedication, and not giving up just because something was hard.
I find that these are things I still need to remember today, as an adult. That’s why I think it’s important for girls to have the chance to participate in sports—even, or perhaps especially, those girls you may not think of as athletes. Girls need the chance to develop self-confidence and explore different sides of their personalities. With the Women’s Final Four coming to town in just a few weeks, this might be the perfect time to help the girl in your life get involved in sports.
Do you have a favorite story about playing sports when you were younger, or a story about what playing sports taught you?