I’ve loved watching women in sports — and women’s sports — for as long as I can remember. There are so many women whose careers on the track, on the field, on the court, on ice have inspired me: from Florence Griffith Joyner to Mia Hamm and Abby Wambach, from Serena and Venus Williams to Michelle Kwan.
I’ve loved watching Mo’ne Davis redefine girls in baseball and could fill a whole page about my favorite dancers, Misty Copeland and Sterling Hyltin.
I’m so grateful for these athletes who show us how #GirlsAre fierce competitors and performers, and even more grateful that my daughter and my son will grow up in a world where they will have these amazing women — and the women whose names we don’t know yet — as role models to inspire their athletic dreams, to fuel their imaginations.
It’s particularly important that we encourage and support girls to be physically active because there is a participation gap between boys and girls in sports. In fact, data shows that across the United States, less than 50% of middle school girls get the recommended amount of physical activity each day, and by the age of 14, they drop out of sports at twice the rate of boys.
Why does this matter? This gap in physical activity results in fewer opportunities for girls to develop critical teamwork, confidence, and leadership skills that will help them thrive throughout their lives — as well as to be physically healthy.
Whether it’s the guts to stand up to a bully, the grit to stick through a tough statistics class, the confidence to ask for more in salary negotiations, the courage to start your own business, or so much more — the research shows we simply will not reach our full potential as a society if young women are dropping out of participation in life in middle school and high school, including life as played and imagined through sports and dance and so much else.
So, here’s what I would like to say to young girls across the country: Don’t give up. Don’t quit. Persist and know you’re not alone. Because #GirlsAre athletes, #GirlsAre competitors, and #GirlsAre meant to do incredible things.