One mom’s quest to playPosted: February 2, 2012
February 1 was National Girls and Women in Sports Day, the 26th such celebration, now recognized in all 50 U.S. states. This year’s theme: Title IX at 40: In it for the Long Run. I don’t think I need to make any arguments for the value of participation in athletics for girls. Both short term and long term, in personal and professional circumstances, participating in sports helps girls and women succeed in life.
I was but a wee lass when Title IX was enacted but, even then, I realized that my lack of a penis, not to mention an average-at-best throwing arm, was going to keep me from my dream of becoming the starting third baseman for the Detroit Tigers. But no longer would it mean that I was barred from participating in the game I loved. Still, opportunities were pretty limited, and not just because I was an undersized kid who had trouble reading a fly ball. I didn’t play high school sports. In college, I played intramural football, blew out my knee, and that was the end of it. Until I had baby number three. A girl.
So, it turns out one of the biggest influences on girls’ participation in sports, beside opportunities to play, is parents and family factors. When my sons dragged their 6 month old sister’s bouncy seat in front of the mini goal and shot foam pucks at her, AND SHE LAUGHED, we knew she was headed straight down the sports participant path. And she’s taken full advantage of it. But where did that leave me?
Waiting for my sports ship to come in
All around me, pony-tailed little girls were playing soccer, popping wrist shots into nets, wailing on softballs and bouncing basketballs. And it left me feeling like the sports opportunity ship had sailed without me. So, I went rowing out after it. I mean, how can I sit there and tell my kids, especially my daughter, that it’s great to be active and that you can learn great life lessons from sports when I’d never fully had that experience myself? I set out to create it.
At 35, I got some hockey skates and started looking for a team. I couldn’t skate. Still can’t. But I found a group of women who wanted to play hockey and we have a blast. After a few years, I decided I needed a summer sport, so I found a spot on a women’s soccer team. I sucked. Still do. They told me I played soccer like a hockey player, which meant a lot of penalty kicks for our opponents until I learned to be more, ahem, subtle. But, wow, what fun. When we needed a fill-in hockey goalie, I gave it a whirl. When the local speed skating club had a try it session, we were there. The kids are begging me to try curling. And recently, I saw that there’s a roller derby instruction night coming up . . .
Playing, instead of just watching, has given me a different perspective on being a sports mom. First, you realize just how hard it is to stick handle, shoot and follow the play while trying to keep your balance on a blade about the thickness of two credit cards. You learn that you don’t have be “good” at something to really enjoy it. And you learn that there are still neanderthals out there who think that because there isn’t a financially viable pro sports league for women, girls shouldn’t bother playing sports. No future in it, I’ve heard them say.
A good guide on how to start getting into some activites, especially for women, is the Better Health Channel website. The Mayo Clinic covers the basics of starting a fitness program. For a great in-depth article on how to get your daughter playing, I really recommend this article from Mom’s Team.
Places to play
The Tucker Center, in addition to just generally being kick ass, has a list of organizations to contact and other resources. Check with your local parks and recreation office or YMCA for some fitness classes, basketball leagues, tennis leagues or swim classes. Call the ice rink and ask about an adult learn to play league. Take up ice dancing, like Michelle. Not into traditional sports? Contact a local dance studio for an adult dance class or find something else that will get you moving. Throw a post up on Facebook and ask your friends. A simple Google search will yield surprising results.
There are also a couple websites that can help you find teammates.
Sportsvite lets you create a profile and find others that are looking for a team.
Strive is another website like that, but it’s pretty localized, mostly Pittsburgh, and just getting started.
If you’re in the UK, MatchMySport is another one. More and more of these sites are emerging so keep your eye out for them.
Mark’s Daily Apple has a post with some sources.
Good for you
The point here is that sport and exercise is beneficial for girls and women of all ages, all abilities and all fitness levels. It’s not how you play, it’s that you play. It’s good for your daughter, and it’s good for you. Especially you moms out there that didn’t grow up with Title IX and never really got the opportunity or the encouragement to try sports. If you don’t do it for yourself, do it for your kids. These days, my kids inspire me to play, give me pointers, cheer me on, and bring me the all-important post-game ice bag, Advil and Labatt because I’m too sore to get off the couch. Deep down inside, while they think I’m some kind of crazy, they are, at least a little, proud of me.
So, what’s your sport? What do you play? Do you hike, bike, play softball or co-ed volleyball? Share how you get active. And as always, play safe and have fun.