Thursday, May 18, 2017

A Girl / Woman Who Loves Sports

I am not a tomboy. I never have been. However, I believe the narrative that still clogs too many airwaves is that a young girl who loves sports is one....or that she is unusual...even atypical. Maybe you agree; hopefully you don't....

I might be overly sensitive, but at a recent event, a woman admitted that her 16-month old daughter "just loves sports. She's a real tomboy," she said. The crowd smiled and laughed, but I didn't. I winced and then I checked myself. As I exhaled I said under my breath, "let's give her, and her daughter the benefit of the doubt....maybe she really is a tomboy, and there's nothing wrong with that," and still, I would appreciate the telling of another story. For example, when a parent has a girl that is athletic or takes to sports, perhaps they can share thoughts like My daughter loves sports, period. Or, I hope she plays defense much better than I ever did! Maybe you see the great hand-eye coordination of your spouse in your child. Celebrate that—say it!

I share this true-confession because recently I have given more thought to what it means to be a girl or a woman who loves sports and (still) views herself as an athlete. My "Sporty Spice" manifesto is but a collection of thoughts and observations I have had about myself and seen in others who share this identity. Enjoy

1. It means that you are always wearing something sporty. 
I came to realize and name this truth as I was modeling to my seniors their final presentation for Sports and Spirituality. One of the many requirements is to use a photo that captures who they are. I shared the photo you see to the right because it's totally me. I love the J. Crew blouse with its eyelet print. I like my hair in this photo (not always a given!). It is at the end of summer, and I used to be much more concerned about my tan that I am now (Vitamin D is good, skin cancer is not). I know that I am standing in front of a picture of one of my favorite golfers, Bubba Watson, as well as an interlocking ND. #somuchlove

As nice as this photo may appear, I know that it is compromised by my running watch. I am certain that if I were standing in front of my mom she would see it and look with disgust. I can hear her now: "Take that thing off!" I understand that this sporty object comes as the cost of the "perfect outfit," but it's what I wear. This habit is hard to break. My high school track coach is smiling now.

As I used my laser pointer to hone in on the hot pink Polar digital watch and what that suggests, I noticed how many of my female students were looking at me and smiling. They understood.

I used to rationalize wearing a nice dress with an unattractive watch. When I coached cross country, I wore my running watch from August until the end of the season. Wearing one watch made life much simpler....but that's a lie. I'm always wearing something that compromises the elegance of my attire because of sports. For example, I probably have a hair tie on my wrist or maybe my hair is tied up in a pony tail/bun right now. When you play sports you are always on the go. No wonder people say "You go girl!"

2. Means that you might make clothing and accessory purchases to satisfy two domains
As a golfer, following a dress code is a reality. It is also a concern, because yes, you want to look good while playing 18 holes but really, How often are you wearing a collared shirt outside of the links? Some women more than others, yes. Never fear, popular clothing lines like Lacoste or Tory Burch have provided me with an easy solution. Tory's polo shirts have a feminine flare that I have worn for work and for play. And, the resurgence of the alligator has has helped too.

Bottom line: I have found that I am willing to spend what is probably too much money so I can purchase a shirt that satisfies two domains. This is true for running shoes, tote bags and jewelry too. Quite often, I am drawn to earrings for dual action wear. You can't have bling that is too big, but a little bit of flash or color in a stud or small hoop is always welcome. Said purchases are the tell-tale signs of a sportswoman.

3. Yes, we love the personal interest stories, but really, we can enjoy the technical stuff too.
I think it's human to want to know what an athlete has overcome in his or her personal life to get to the victory stand. The Olympic games is fertile ground incredulous tales such as these, to the point that it nearly become cliche. It seems that every other competitor has met tragedy at the worst possible time, overcome addition, left an abusive relationship or made it out of dire poverty. It's very hard not to be both humbled and inspired, but the real sports fan in me always wants a little more.

I love knowing that DeShone Kizer was a three-sport athlete at Central Catholic High School in Toledo, OH but I am more concerned about how many yards he passed for in his sophomore and junior seasons. I hate that the Irish left too many unanswered points on the scoreboard; no wonder we finished the season 4-8.

Though I noticed what Paulina Gretzky was wearing when her fiancĂ©  Dustin Justin won the US Open, I am much more interested in the second shot he took on the 18th hole...the one with the 6-iron (my go-to club) from 191 yards out, up hill that landed within 3 feet of the pin. He won the tournament—and his first major—finishing 5 strokes under par. The conversation that non-golf fans have about DJ is different than those who love the game. I won't deny his colored past, but I would much rather discuss what his game looks like today. BTW: he's the favorite for this year's Open at Erin Hills.
My favorite sports magazine, Sports Illustrated, has outstanding sports writers that impart extended pieces on an athlete's profile, inclusive of their background and personal lives as well as their technical skills, impact on the game, stats, and awards. SI consults an athlete's coaches and teammates, offers history and perspective, great sports photography and more. Twenty-five percent of their subscribers are female; I have a sense those women aren't much different than me.

I don't know that I have arrived at a full understanding of what it means to be a woman who loves sports/is an athlete. I don't know that I ever will...or even want to. I have fun with some insights: 
  • For some reason, I have always been comfortable in a tennis or golf skirt. The mini-skirt? not so much. Who knew?
  • Why some people always assume that Sports and Spirituality has more boys than girls in it. The best classes I have had are a 50/50 mix!
And laugh at or with others
  • A close friend walked in during the 7th inning of Game 7 of the 2014 World Series. The bar/restaurant was packed—it should have been for I live in San Francisco, and the Giants were battling the Royals in KC. My friend wanted to know how everyone was doing. I could not answer that question. I refuse to apologize to this day for that. 
  • Girls can and do love sports. They love pink, purple and green. They also love red and blue. They are feminine and others are not. They love dance, ballet and the San Francisco Giants.
I don't claim to have a monopoly on this understanding or be an authority on it. I do however know I named an truth about myself that resonated with several other young women I know. I teach and coach them, I may be a mentor to some and others inspire me. I hope they will think more about their own identity and share it with others. Play Ball!

Photo Credits
Cute Polo

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