|That’s me in the white
I don’t have one of those poignant stories that describes how athletics saved my life or became my ticket to college (though they exist). However, the lack of uniqueness in my experience is the strength of my narrative—these days, it is the story of millions of American women. I was just a normal girl who became empowered by athletics.
I have been an athlete for as long as I can remember. As a kid, I played every sport I could—soccer, swimming, tennis and volleyball. I even played on an all-boys soccer team for a few years. It never crossed my mind that my gender would hold me back from becoming a deeply competitive athlete.
When I was selected for my high school’s varsity volleyball team as a freshman, I knew it was time to focus on one sport. From that point on, I poured myself into volleyball. The hard work paid off. I broke many high school records and was quickly recruited by colleges.
Four years later, I started on my college team. Between 40 hours a week of practice and starting college, my first semester was a bit rocky. But, it was a sink or swim situation, and I eventually learned how to manage my time and love being busy. For the final two years of my volleyball career, I was elected team captain.
It’s been almost four years since I played my last collegiate volleyball game, but I still feel the effects of that experience in my everyday life.
Playing volleyball gave me confidence, inspired a healthy lifestyle, and helped me to develop time management and leadership skills. It also helped me to get into a great college and to do well once I got there. To this day, I have talked about volleyball and the skills it helped me cultivate in every job interview I have ever had.
None of these benefits are surprising. We’ve known about them for a long time. What shocks me is simply that one generation ago, women didn’t have access to them. My mom, for instance, who was a similarly athletic child, never had the opportunity to play competitive sports. Because of this, my experience in volleyball became hers as she lived through that time of my life with me. She went to every game, helped me through the college recruitment process, and was with me as I played my last volleyball game. It meant the world to her to be a part of that experience for her daughter.
My story is not glamorous, but it is remarkable. It is the story of a generation of women who, because of Title IX, always believed they could compete, lead, and win. For this, I am grateful. The fight that my mother and her generation of American women waged for their daughters proved worth the struggle.