This International Women’s Day, put your girls in sports

Editorial by Delaney Hart

This International Women’s Day, I recommend everyone put their little girls in a sport.

I think there are lots of problems with the fitness industry these days, especially for women. A lot of the emphasis sits on how we look and not how we feel.

Online fitness culture promotes an image of fitness, characterized by shredded abs and capped shoulders and strong-but-lean legs. Influencers and coaches tell us how to shred 10 pounds or lean out for summer, but rarely does anyone think to promote a holistic approach to fitness.

Despite this, I love fitness. I think that fitness is one of the best parts of my life, and I think often about how I could have ended up somewhere entirely different had I not been an athlete growing up.

My Mom and Dad put me in everything, and this was great because I learned to skate and swim and get worn out at a young age. I wasn’t super into anything where you ran to one end only to immediately run back (soccer, basketball), but I liked baseball, so I played that. I wanted to play volleyball, and I tried out as soon as I was old enough.

Thank, God.

I started playing volleyball when I was 12 and going to camps when I was 10, so I grew up with role models like Misty May Trainor. Trainor won Olympic gold medals for beach volleyball when I was a kid, and she did it half-naked. She had tree trunks for legs and a strong core. These were the women I grew up wanting to be like.

The basketball girls had their people, and the hockey girls had theirs, but the point is that I didn’t even know what a Victoria’s Secret model was until I was in Grade 9. I didn’t have to. I was busy watching Misty May Trainor, so just put your girls in a sport and save everyone the grief.

I went to camps run by high school students and university athletes. They were all good athletes, and they all looked different. Some girls were tall, and some were short, but they were all strong and valuable to the team. They were scrappy, all over the floor for the dig, and they could jump.
Some of them had bellies and stretch marks and cellulite, but it didn’t matter. They weren’t worrying about that; they were worrying about how far they could press a medicine ball or how high they could jump.

I spent most of my formative years worried about how far I could press a med ball in a high school gym and not what my size was, so put your girls in a sport.

There are a million and one people trying to tell little girls that their value is determined by the way that they look, so if you can get them in a room where people measure worth by work ethic, skill and discipline, you should.

Sports gave me training: the gym. I owe a lot to Peak Athletic Training. Not only did they show a 13-year-old girl how to do a kettlebell swing, but they showed her where to feel the kettlebell swing and why she should do them. They told us about macros, not so we could change our composition, but so we could have more energy and recover better. They explained it all, from the importance of doing cat-cows to what the word “supine” meant.

It was simple: drink water, recover, eat well, and have fun training.

So put your daughters in a sport, because even if she doesn’t go pro, she might just fall in love with fitness anyway.

What I have learned in the gym is invaluable. I learned a lot about vocabulary, form and intensity, but more than that, I learned how to love moving my body.

I loved pushing the sled. It was so much fun. And doing a pull-up, even banded, made me feel awesome. Bent-over dumbbell rows, deadlifts, squats, hip thrusts, box jumps, cleans, snatches, sprints; all things I still love to do, even though I don’t really need to jump that high these days.

Even if she doesn’t play varsity volleyball, she might learn an awful lot about the importance of mobility and a work ethic, so maybe it’s all worth it.

I think for parents of girls it’s important to note a couple of things.

First, you aren’t just sending them to practice, you’re sending them off to a bunch of strong women they’re probably going to look up to. Coaches and teammates. Their friends will become other strong, quick, smart girls, and they don’t mess around that much because they’re busy training.

Nobody was looking at Instagram between sets or on the bench. We were looking at the girls across the net. We didn’t care if they were skinny or fat. We cared who was tall, where we were in the rotation, and whether or not the short one could jump.

Lots of environments have us worried if we’re skinny or fat, so if you can get her in an environment where most people are worried about being a good teammate and working hard, you should.

All of that universal stuff — the importance of showing up on time, the importance of teamwork, the importance of leadership, humility, success, that’s for everyone. You do learn a lot.

It’s kind of like corn detasseling. If you know, you know. I always say you can tell when a kid has done corn because they work hard. They train hard. They party hard. They work hard.

Sports are kind of like corn. You can tell when someone played one because they know how to win and how to lose. They’re personable because they had to befriend new teammates. They can take criticism from a coach, can control themselves during playoffs, and are good under pressure.

So this International Women’s Day, put your girls in sports!

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