In 2020, social norms were challenged like never before. Social justice movements have risen to the front pages of newspapers across the country. As we reconsider what is important to us, we have come to understand values in a new sort of hierarchy– health, teamwork, coming together, commitment, and socialization have become the cornerstones of everyday life as we hope and wait for a better tomorrow. While we continue to do our part in staying home, it is more important than ever to integrate these principles into our daily lives. Sports have become a medium by which we can communicate the truly important parts of our lives. The push for equitable representation across minority communities has put into the spotlight the importance of standing up for one another, creating safe spaces for growth, and celebrating wins. This National Girls and Women in Sports Day holds a deeper meaning this year, as we are coming together to celebrate women’s accomplishments and their contributions in predominantly male spaces.
National Girls and Women in Sports Day was created to be recognized as a national holiday in 1986. At the time, it was considered a commemorative day for Flo Hyman, a champion in women’s rights and inclusion in athletics. Since then, the day has become to mean so much more.
Girls participation in sports notoriously tapers off as they enter into adulthood. Less and less women participate in sports starting as young as 13 years old — and it is no secret that the media and societal portrayal of women in sports is not the same as the coverage of male athletes. The coverage of women’s sports did not surpass the coverage of dogs and horses until 1992, with women’s sports covering only 4% of all sport media coverage. Not to mention, diet culture has boxed women into a stereotypical idealist body type, staying small, petite, and skinny. The pressure put on young women to fit a certain standard often dissuades girls from continuing a sport that would make them physically stronger and masculine, an added stressor to an already existing highly masculine space. Biological debates surrounding sex differences have raised questions concerning horomone balances and the capacity to be as physically strong as men. Female athletes are more likely than male athletes to be portrayed in sexually provocative poses as a means of preserving their femininity in the male gaze while they occupy a more masculine sphere. Despite this, women have climbed the ranks in sports ranging from soccer to volleyball, scoring more goals than men in some areas. Though the push is towards equality, we must celebrate the wins of female athletes as they overcome the traditional sexist trope of US sports.
By celebrating our girls in sports on this day, we are rewriting the existing culture of exclusion in the record books down the line. It’s time we start giving credit where it’s due and acknowledge the most impeccable athletes of our time, many of whom are women.
The lack of positive and common role models is one of the most cited reasons for girls to drop out of sports at a young age. There is a lack of representation when it comes to inspiring female athletes, and especially a lack of multiple identities. Therefore, young girls find it hard to feel empowered in an arena they do not see themselves represented in. When considering the “household names” we all know when it comes to athletes, the first few names will likely be men. While they may be incredible athletes and performers, there is a very good chance that they are not even the technical best in their field. For example, Abby Wambach has scored more goals than any man on the US National Men’s Soccer Team — but is still often referred to as the greatest female soccer player in the US. What will it take for her to be recognized as simply the best of the best?
A culture shift is what is necessary. Raising our girls with sports and celebrating their participation is only the beginning. We must surround ourselves with the achievements of people with frequently underrepresented identities that are akin to our own identities. At the same time, we must saturate the media and dialogue with these powerful women in order to create great role models that our kids won’t have to think twice about.
“I am going to tell my mom that today is a national holiday, so I don’t think we should go to school on this day next year!”
The Kids in the Game Foundation believes in equity and for too long there have been opportunity gaps for girls in sports. To celebrate national Girls and Women in Sports Day, we hosted our first ever NGWSD event, including a virtual activity and panel session for girls (and guys) of all ages and their families! The event included a high energy Tabata session lead by Coach Frances, some awesome women in sports trivia, and a short panel discussion with Liz Kennedy and LaKaitlin Wright. Liz Kennedy is a former collegiate swimmer and is now the Head of Marketing at Raise for Good, a social impact focused consultancy specializing in purpose driven organizations looking to accelerate capacity, capital, and awareness. Originally from South Georgia, LaKaitlin Wright is a History major at Towson University, where she plays basketball. We had people join us in NYC and beyond for our event. We can’t wait to do it again next year!