My childhood was spent in a seemingly endless number of team practices, weekday games, summer all-star teams, and year-round travel ball tournaments. I eagerly awaited the end of one #sports season and the beginning of the next; the flow from cool fall practices and halftime oranges during soccer season, to sunburned shoulders from catching five games a day in the summer heat. Playing sports gave me the tools I needed to succeed in middle school, high school, well in to college, and even now in the professional workplace. Not only that, but it also provided me with a core group of friends that understood a part of me not very many others did, making the transition through young adulthood that much easier.
While I’ve always known that sports played such a key role in becoming who I am today, I rarely had the concrete facts to back it up. But now, for all of those sporty Smart Girls out there — and those who might feel timid about wanting to put on a pair of cleats — this post is for you!
The U.S. Department of State and its Empowering #Women and Girls through Sports Initiative in partnership with espnW and the University of Tennessee Center for Sport, #Peace, and Society is focusing on sharing the importance of sports involvement in the lives of women, and aims to increase the number of women and girls involved in sports around the world.
Empowering Women has been working to increase sports participation for women around the world since 2012. According to the initiative’s website, a United Nations report and other sources have shown why women and girls’ participation in sports is an important social and economic empowerment tool. Women and girls acquire new professional networks, develop a sense of identity and access new opportunities to become more engaged in school and community life. In addition, sports serve as a vehicle to improve women’s and girls’ leadership roles and participation in decision-making and help to convene people across borders, cultures and belief systems. They can promote greater tolerance and understanding among individuals and communities and can challenge gender stereotypes and discriminatory attitudes.
Additionally, sports teams and organizations provide an excellent opportunity for sharing information and promoting dialogue on the importance of girls’ education. Studies show a direct correlation between girls’ participation in sports and higher education and employment. A single year of primary education correlates with a 10 – 20 percent increase in women’s wages later in life, and a single year of secondary education results in a 15 – 25 percent increase. After all, it is no accident that 80% of the female executives at Fortune 500 companies identified themselves as former “tomboys”— having played sports, a wonderful fact discovered by a research study conducted by tennis star Billie Jean King’s Women’s Sports Foundation, which also advocates for the importance of getting young women involved in sports from an early age.