I was snuggled comfortably in my seat, ready to watch The Amazing Spider-Man, when I saw the above spot about how, by age 14, girls drop out of sports at twice the rate as boys. And for what reasons? Well, the spot honed in on the fact that it’s society pushing girls to be skinny and sexy — a point with which I wholeheartedly agree. It was enough for me to write down the words “Keep Her In The Game” before I settled back in, my inner 14-year-old fuming.
My head has been spinning today as I’ve read over this site from the Women’s Sports Foundation. The site says the following reasons are the six factors that most influence girls’ decisions to drop out of sports: lack of access, safety and transportation issues, social stigma, decreased quality of experience, costs, and lack of positive role models.
The social stigma issue really got under my skin. The website says, “Girls in sports may experience bullying, social isolation, negative performance evaluations, or the loss of their starting position. During socially fragile adolescence, the fear of being tagged ‘gay’ is strong enough to push many girls out of the game.”
That wasn’t surprising to me at all. When I first expressed interest in playing roller derby, I had one co-worker who would endlessly bombard me with lines that frequently included, “Only lesbians play roller derby,” and at the ripe age of 30, I allowed it to affect me enough to make keep me out of the sport until I just couldn’t take it anymore and I finally gave in. I can only imagine what a 14-year-old who is in the most impressionable stages of her life is going through.
But quite frankly, all of these reasons suck. How many talented girls give up because they’re not yet strong enough to know who they are, or what it is they’re meant to be?
What else stuck with me was this statistic: girls who remain active in sports are 20% less likely to develop breast cancer later in life. Considering how one in 8 women will be diagnosed with breast cancer, the fact that a 14-year-old is making such a huge, life-changing decision because of social pressures is disturbing to me.
What did sports do for me? It’s made me healthier and happier, more balanced and self-confident. It helped me cope with losing my father, has helped me reduce my stress level and helped me feel more comfortable with my body. I know a ton of other girls who can say the very same thing.
Ladies, isn’t it time we make our own rules?