Playing sports was a never a question in my life, it was just something I did. Maybe I was simply following in the footsteps of my big sister or maybe being active was just a fact of life the way my mother raised us. Either way, from fifth grade until my high school graduation, nearly every day ended with a two hour practice or a game.
It was a grueling schedule (or so I thought then – until I learned about all-nighters in college) that I reveled in, immersing myself in school and sports. Waking up sore was glorious. My teammates and I would commiserate over how we couldn’t even sit gently anywhere including the toilet, but rather had to let ourselves drop onto the seat our thighs were so tired and weak from conditioning. With field hockey, soccer, and basketball, I never had any breaks, and that was how I liked it.
I was rarely called MVP, but I was always one of the fastest, most aggressive players even if I didn’t score the points. By my senior year I captained every team I was on and nearly had a six pack. Blistered feet were the norm and bruised knees were so commonplace they might as well have been my signature look. Being an athlete is a lifestyle; you have to live it in order to understand why athletes are so passionate about what they do and why they love it.
Admittedly I was in the best shape of my life (ice cream was my midnight snack regularly and I never felt guilty), but what made sports so amazing was that they—or more specifically my teammates, coaches, and experiences—helped define me as a young woman. On those courts and fields, I became a leader and a team player. Sure it sounds like a hokey football movie, but camaraderie and underdog stories aren’t just for guys. It is something that anyone can experience.
I wouldn’t give up soccer games in the rain where I slid in the mud, and losing the league championship against our rivals for anything. To have lived through something which grips you so intensely, to have felt such a strong desire to win, to be bruised and battered and still running—these are feelings and memories I will never forget, which I may have never experienced had Title IX not made it acceptable for girls to play sports.
Playing sports gave me confidence and pride in my abilities, not because I was handed trophies or medals, but because I had been through my own hardships and had overcome them. I find the strength I developed then helping me now as I encounter larger problems in our society. So even though I’m not regularly knocking mud from my cleats, having to endure wearing a face mask after having my nose broken in a basketball game, or running suicides, the competitor is still within me. Today, losses and setbacks are another chance for an underdog story, and though women may feel bruised from their intense struggle for equality – which is ongoing – we can find the strength to win from the experiences that Title IX and our foremothers allowed us to enjoy.