You probably haven’t seen this ad lately:
Pretty great though, right?
I didn’t grow up playing sports. I was the only daughter of a single mom. We lived with my grandmother in an urban area; my main running was for the public bus, and later, from bullies.
No one “didn’t let me play” – it just wasn’t an option.
I probably would’ve been terrible anyway; I am one of those people who bump into things not even remotely in her way. In fact, it would appear I go out of my way to bump into things. Some mornings I wake up with a bruise and I don’t bother trying to figure out where it came from; I know where it came from – it came from my mostly uncoordinated movement through life.
When my daughter was born, it was quickly apparent that she had inherited my coordination, or lack thereof. But no one told her that. On the contrary, actually. Her dad played soccer with her from the time she could kick a ball; we danced crazily every night in the living room as a family; she went hiking and skiing and inner tubing, all before she was seven. Now eight, she just played her fourth season of soccer and her first season of basketball. She is starting her first season of softball.
I rarely see her without a ball in her hand. Or at her feet.
Often I pass by her purple and yellow room and she is standing up, reading a book while dribbling a ball around the floor with her feet. In the mornings, the moment she finishes her chores, she is throwing a ball against the hall closet, practicing catching it with her mitt. When we get home from school, she races to the hoop in our driveway and shoots a dozen shots, sinking most of them.
She has run several races already. Medals and trophies line her shelves.
But her biggest accomplishment, I think? I have never seen a more confident young girl.
I’m not crediting sports for her kind heart, her admirable math mind or her good humor. But I do think the fact that we let her play, that we encouraged it even, helped plant the seed of what I see so clearly in bloom in her now: a steely strength around which everything else revolves, around which everything shines brighter. There is a core belief in her, a way she moves through the world that says she knows where she’s going and that she’s strong enough to get there. It’s led me to believe that sports have given my girl the ultimate win: she likes herself.
And what more can we ask for our girls? For us all?