Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Blog to Rally for Girls’ Sports Day

Hey, the National Women’s Law Center wants to draw attention to opportunities for women to play sports by holding a national “Blog to Rally for Girls’ Sports Day,” on December 8th and drawing attention to Title IX issues.

Rally for Girls’ SportsDay

Let me quote their website:
The idea behind our Blog to Rally for Girls' Sports Day is simple: "What did you win by playing sports?" You can use this theme to begin discussing what the chance to participate in athletics programs meant to you and/or your daughter and how it has affected your lives.

Rally for Girls' Sports: She'll Win More Than a Game: Is to address the discrimination in athletics that girls still face in high schools nationwide, the National Women's Law Center launched the Rally for Girls' Sports: She'll Win More Than a Game campaign, which features advocacy and outreach to parents and other adults.

So I have been asked to write about what I won by playing sports… okay, you don’t have to ask me twice…

I could write volumes about how sports has meant to me, and a separate chapter about what it was meant for my almost grown daughter, but I won’t bore you with the details. I mean, I have a life long love affair with all things sports. Sports has shaped my life and body, defined who I am, revealed to me my closest friends and even became my job (PE teacher). I am my happiest when playing sports. I am the second-most-happiest when coaching and passing along my passion of sports. Sports were my earliest connection to people. I grew up with three tolerant older brothers and toddled after them, doing whatever they did all day, which just happened to be sports (well, mostly baseball back then, but we were very clever at making up our own games, such as freeze-ball tag, and our mother often yelled at us for the sound we made when we would throw tennis balls against the slanted roof to try and predict where they would bounce down).Sports helped see my though the turbulent times of high school, both as a stress reliever and as a built-in coolness factor with the popular kids. It was a shame I could only play three sports a year. There is not an American sport I have not played at some point in my life. But I won’t bore you with those details.

My daughter, I remember like yesterday, was a shy first grader who did not have much interest in catching balls like her ol' mom, no matter how much I cajoled her to play catch. But she really enjoyed swimming laps. Mindless, endless laps, although that’s not how she would refer to swimming. She loved the anonymity of the lane instead of the anxiety of competing against others head to head, and for years we cheered on her “personal best” ribbons instead of remarking what place she finished in. She wasn’t the fastest and didn’t need to be, she enjoyed being out there. It gave her confidence and purpose and access to instant friends. Then one day when she turned 14 and her shoulders grew from all those butterfly strokes, she actually touched the wall first in a race! No one was more surprised then she was! And then the competition bug bit her, and she wanted to be first every time.

I went to every swim meet, of course, but was never more proud of her then when she won first place in the 50 free her sophomore year of high school in a 20-team tournament against hundreds of other girls. The 50 free event in a swim meet is like the 100 yard dash event of track and field. It is the shortest distance and an all out swim. You swim down and back again in a 25 yard pool. It is a sprint and you hardly breathe. Blink and you miss it. Only the bestest, super fastiest girls, totally going all out, win this event. Times are separated by hundredths of seconds. You have to stretch, twist, reach, hold your breath, dig down deep, go into oxygen depravation mode and will your arm to grow a quater of an inch as you go for the finish…  And she touched the wall first.

I had to ask several parents, banging them on their shoulders “Did my daughter touch the wall first? Did my daughter win? Did she win?” I couldn’t believe it. My shy little girls who was not even able to say her name to adults in first grade touched the wall first! It is a moment that connected her to her team and connected us.

On a side note, she even brought pride to our little public school. We were matched up with quite a few “name” private school from our area, the schools that field all-star teams and year-around athletes with moneyed parents and private lessons and go on to swim at places such as Cal and Stanford. And my little daughter, from that “ghetto-school” as one private school parent derogatorily called us, won it all! Attuitude, Ha!

And she joined water polo in high school despite never throwing a ball much. And she was good! Even though the object of the game is to drown the other player. And when her team's goalie graduated, she decided to be the goalie even though she had never played goalie before in any sport and her reflexes were questionable, what with NOT having spent hours throwing a tennis ball against a slanted roof. And she became good. She was fearless. Girls would throw hard water polo balls 80 mph at her and she would block them. (She once scored a goal from the goalie position, swam out a few strokes then heaved it and as I followed the arc of the ball from my vantage point at the top of the stands I knew, just knew it was going in. And it did, right over the outstretched hands of the goalie).

Her favorite play was when she would make a save and the opposing player would swim after her in the goal, trying to scare her/pressure her/get her to give up the ball and get an easy score. Her coach taught her to swim to teh side with the ball in front of her face, pushing it with her chin, protecting the ball with arms on either side and churn her elbows up and down in an exaggerated motion so she was all-elbows to the opposing player. It was like trying to reach over a band saw, an elbow was sure to hit you and knock your teeth out. Opposing players would do that once a game and then wisely leave her alone. She would smile at them, daring them to come near. This from the shy first grader who would never harm a fly and always let more aggressive kids take her toys.

She decided not to pursue swimming in college, which shocked the swim community and me because she loved it so much. So what is she up to now? She decided to instead join the rugby team, which isn't too much different from the wrestling she did her last two years of high school.

Sports has given a lot to my daughter, the same as me, but in a completely different way.

But like I said, I don’t want to bore you with the details.

I could not imagine my life without sports, or the opportunity to play them, just as I could not imagine my daughter without all sports has given her. Please sport the girl or woman in your life to have opportunities to play sports.

Write in and share your sports story, and I will publish your thoughts.

And if you see a tennis ball, pick it up and bounce it. You’ll be surprised how your mood will improve.
One half of C and R

1 comment:

  1. Great post! This really reminds me of how much sports means to me!