The Dickinsonian

The Importance of Women’s Sports

Emily Messer ‘20, News Editor

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I have been an athlete my whole life, and it has changed how I think of myself as a woman.

I didn’t play on an all girl’s team until I was 12.  I was one of two female athletes in the ENTIRETY of all four towns that participated in the American Youth Soccer Organization (AYSO).  So, my options were to quit or to play with the boys.  I chose to play with the boys, which turned out to be one of the best things that could happen to me at such a formative age.

I practiced with the boys, played with the boys, and ran with the boys.  I kept up with them without problem and even surpassed most of them with my general athletic ability.  I am far from a good soccer player now, but I was physically able to keep up with my male teammates and was fairly coached alongside them.  I was expected to be aggressive, slide tackle with the best of them, and throw elbows when necessary.  I didn’t realize how different those expectations are for female athletes until I got to high school.

I had to quit soccer after that one year on the boys’ AYSO team in favor of pursuing both horseback riding and competitive Irish Dance, so my first exposure to female-only sports was my freshman year of JV soccer.  What a let down.  My coach did not push us in our fitness, did not expect aggression and confidence in our games, and most of all did not emphasize competitive spirit.  It was okay to “do your best” and it wasn’t necessary to learn from your mistakes.  As a world-ranked Irish dancer and highly proficient horseback rider I was disappointed to see the boys’ JV team running miles before practice, drilling their ball skills into dusk, and winning games, while my team was jogging one lap around the field, leaving practice early, and consistently losing.  Consequently, I quit soccer and joined the track team where I was able to focus on my individual performances.  This was when I began to recognize the pattern of how seriously my high school took the boys’ sports versus the casual airs with which they treated the girls’ teams.

During my off seasons from track, I began going to a CrossFit gym. I was drawn in by the seriousness with which they took my, and other women’s, achievements.  I was equal in my coaches eyes to the adult men.  My improvements were celebrated just as much as any male athlete’s and workout scores were made comparable by compensating for height and weight.

It was amazing to be taken seriously and to have my body evaluated by what it was capable of rather than how it looked.

In fact, that’s part of what I love so much about running college track at Dickinson.  The men’s’ and women’s teams practice together, so the workouts, the coaching and the respect is the same for the female athletes as it is for the males.  Times, jumps and throws are evaluated according to sex and both men and women are equally applauded and respected by teammates for their accomplishments.

Because athletics measures the value of a person and their body on it’s ability to perform, it is essential for women to be taken seriously in athletics.  I have seen both ends of the spectrum in my life, and I know that the times when I was respected equally were the times I had the most confidence in myself and my body, which is why I believe that women’s athletics are actually more important to women than men’s are to men.

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The Importance of Women’s Sports